Help – I’ve Got Blackberry Thumbs!

I can usually predict that my clients and students will have joint issues in their hands during the winter, but it’s now spring and the complaints are still coming in. It may be a weather-related thing, but I suspect a different culprit. Our hands and wrists are home to some of the body’s true workhorse joints, about 27 of them on each side, give or take a few. (Fun fact: The number of bones in our hands varies from person to person.)

The near constant use, and frequent overuse, of the joints in our hands makes them among the most vulnerable to osteoarthritis and repetitive stress. This is especially true when we spend extended time with our fingers and thumbs curled inward which, thanks to the relatively recent proliferation of electronic devices, seems to be quite frequently. Texting and hitting the “return” key on progressively smaller keyboards (and pads) requires us to use our fingers, particularly our thumbs, in unnatural ways. There’s even a name for it: Blackberry Thumbs for adults, Teen Texting Tendonitis for teens, who are voracious tech users.

There is, of course, a simple solution to this dilemma:  Cut back on use of the devices–Is that chuckling I hear? In my defense, being present in the moment wherever we are, rather than engaging in texting, crushing candy, or reading Facebook while in transit, during intermission, or at family dinners is not the worst idea in the world. But I do realize it’s not very realistic. Plan B: Here are a few simple ways to cut down on the creakies.

  • Take frequent keyboard breaks. (This is important for many other reasons as well.)
  • Lubricate the joints in your hands and wrists a few times throughout the day: Play an imaginary piano; shake your hands and wrists gently; stretch your wrists, fingers, and elbows at regular intervals. (Get more exercises here.)
  • Try using your computer or software’s dictation programs for heavy typing jobs.

Try these pain relieving tricks:


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8 years ago

Hi Lynn,

I meant to go to your 8:00 class this morning, but by the time I remembered it was too late. I did get a chance to look at the link you sent. I forwarded it to my colleague who is dealing with surgery vs. PT for what has been chronic back pain for too many years. He’s retiring and I’m thinking of getting him a private session with you. We’ll have to see if that will work for him.

Hope to see you Sunday.


8 years ago

great wrist exercises!