Unlike my previous article, Healing Texting, Thumb and Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI) with Solomon’s Seal: Part 1, this article looks more specifically at thumb issues, now being widely reported as a growing issue among texters, game players and computer users. I believe that if you understand the properties of your thumb, fingers, hand and wrist, you might better understand the potential healing effects Solomon’s Seal Tincture may offer in your convalescence.
Here is the key to understanding complications arising in your thumb as a result of texting or injuring it via a sport, avocation or occupation: For every pound of pressure that you push at the tip of your thumb, it is magnified at the base of your thumb, called the carpometacarpal joint (CMC).
It is estimated that people (especially teens) run a high risk of texting injuries if they text over 80 messages a day. This is about the equivalent of spending one hour a day only texting — repeatedly and rapidly tapping the thumb on a key pad. Add to this regular daily computer use and/or video games! That’s a lot of daily, sustained pressure at the tip of the thumb being magnified at the thumb’s base! (Note: there are other injuries associated with texting, as described in my article.)
Over time, repeated thumb use or injury can lead to problems: joint issues and nerve issues. In the most serious cases, excessive wear and tear and inflammation of the basal joint of the thumb can lead to osteoarthritis of the thumb. Thumb arthritis can cause hand pain, swelling, decreased strength and range of motion.
WHAT IS CMC?
Basal joint arthritis (commonly called CMC or thumb arthritis) occurs as a result of wear and tear on the joint at the base of the thumb — the carpometacarpal joint, CMC. (see Know Your Thumb, below for image). It is more likely to occur, and at a younger age, if you have fractured or injured your thumb. Or, as presently seen, over use of the thumb by excessive texting. Repeatedly gripping, twisting, or turning objects with the thumb and fingers may make the arthritis worse.
Osteoarthritis can develop at any age, but usually appears after the age of 45. It sometimes develops years later after a fracture involving the joint (often occurring in a sports injury). Although osteoarthritis may run in families, the medical community is reporting increasing diagnoses of CMC joint arthritis in young adults, as a result of texting. Arthritis of the basal joint of the thumb is common in women and rather less common in men. X-rays show it is present in about 25% of women over the age of 55, but many people with arthritis of this joint have no significant pain.
We are witnessing the emergence of a huge wave of thumb injuries associated with today’s mobile technology. Virgin Mobile, a UK mobile phone provider, revealed findings from a large national study on texting:
- Over 100 million text messages are sent every single day in the UK alone
- 3.8 million British mobile phone users suffer from text-related injuries
- 38% of mobile phone users suffer from sore wrists and thumbs from texting
- Visit www.practisesafetext.com for further information
- On its U.K. website, Virgin Mobile offers a series of exercises, including a thumb stretch
It is important to state that chronic texters and computer/video game users are experiencing acute discomfort in their wrists, arms, shoulders, and neck, much of which may be associated with nerve damage.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF CMC?
Injuries happen because texting puts the thumb into a “non-neutral posture” – that is a cramped position in which the tendons that work the thumb are at an odd angle of pull. When you add frequency of movement to that, you will have injuries such as tendonitis of the thumb.
Research out of Cornell University indicates that some people can type as much as 40 words per minute just using their thumbs! The world record for fastest texting is held by a 21 year-old Utah college student. All this overuse points to an ergonomics nightmare: The thumb is the least stable joint in the body. The thumb works in combination with the fingers to grasp and to grip. But when the thumb is used in any kind of work to push or activate something, that’s a big no-no in terms of ergonomic design.
Early warning signs of overuse include fatigue. There’s a sense of the thumbs and the forearms being tired because the muscles that move the thumb are actually in the forearm. People wrongly think they have tennis elbow, but the fatigue that’s felt eventually changes to pain.
There may be swelling in that area known as the “anatomical snuff box” (a hollow seen on the thumbside of the back of the wrist where snuff used to be placed.) That is where people might notice swelling. Over time, if untreated, the tendons become inflamed and lose strength; gripping a pen or holding a mug can become difficult. Here’s some further symptoms:
- Pain at the base of the thumb, aggravated by thumb use.
- Tenderness if you press on the base of the thumb.
- Difficulty with tasks such as opening jars, turning a key in the lock etc.
- Stiffness of the thumb and some loss of ability to open the thumb away from the hand.
- In advanced cases, there is a bump at the base of the thumb and the middle thumb joint may hyperextend, giving a zigzag appearance.
- The most common symptom is pain in the lower part of the thumb. You may feel pain when you lift something with the thumb and fingers, unscrew a jar lid, or turn a door handle or a key. You may find yourself dropping things. Weather may also make the thumb hurt. The joint may swell, and with time the thumb may become stiff or deformed.
- A physical examination can reveal abnormal range of motion in the CMC joint, swelling, and pain or tenderness at the base of the thumb. Crepitus (a grinding sound as the joint is moved) suggests the ends of the bones that form the joint are rubbing against each other.
KNOW YOUR THUMB
The universal joint at the base of the thumb, between the metacarpal and trapezium bones (the wrist bones), often becomes arthritic as people get older. It is osteoarthritis, which is loss of the smooth cartilage surface covering the ends of the bones in the joints. The cartilage becomes thin and rough, and the bone ends can rub together.
The basal joint is formed by one of the wrist bones (carpals) and the first (metacarpal) of the three bones in the thumb. This joint (carpometacarpal) allows the thumb to move and to pinch with the fingers. When arthritis occurs in the basal joint, it slowly destroys the joint.
ARTHRITIS DESTROYS THE JOINT
The ends of the bones are covered with cartilage. This covering acts like a cushion, allowing the bones to move smoothly. Arthritis destroys the cartilage. Then the bones rub against each other when you move your thumb. This causes the joint to become inflamed and painful. This makes pinching and grasping with the thumb and fingers painful. With time, the bone in the thumb may collapse. Then you can no longer straighten your thumb.
1. Avoiding activities that cause pain, if possible.
2. Analgesic and/or anti-inflammatory medication. A pharmacist or your family doctor can advise.
3. Using a splint to support the thumb and wrist. Rigid splints (metal or plastic) are effective but make thumb use difficult. A flexible neoprene rubber support is more practicable.
4. Steroid injection improves pain in many cases, though the effect may wear off over time. The risks of injection are small, but it very occasionally causes some thinning or colour change in the skin at the site of injection. Improvement may occur within a few days of injection, but often takes several weeks to be effective. The injection can be repeated if needed.
5. Surgery is a last resort, as the symptoms often stabilise over the long term and can be controlled by the non-surgical treatments above. There are various operations that can be performed to treat this condition. These are listed below:
a. Osteotomy, which means cutting and realigning the metacarpal bone next to the arthritic joint.
b. Removal of the trapezium which is removal of the bone at the bottom of the thumb, which forms one surface of the arthritic joint, sometimes combined with reconstruction of the ligaments.
c. Fusion of the joint, so that it no longer moves. .
d. Joint replacement, as in a hip replacement.
e. Denervation, which means cutting small nerve branches that transmit pain from the arthritic joint.
Removal of the trapezium is the most commonly performed operation.
THE EFFECTIVENESS OF SOLOMON’S SEAL
There is a significant amount of observational information, from both medical practitioners and users, about the effects of Solomon’s Seal on many of the conditions associated with RSI, including thumb-related injuries.
The belief is that Solomon’s Seal acts on the synovial glands, improving the production of synovial fluid and thus lubrication between cartilage-capped joints (knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, fingers, thumb, etc). This synovial fluid is slippery and somewhat viscous (it’s been described as “egglike”), and provides the lubrication so that the ever- moving joints do so freely and don’t abrade or wear at each other. Solomon’s Seal appears to resolve the sensation of friction, grinding, or clicking in joints.
In addition to merely lubricating the joints, Solomon’s Seal softens the outer surface of the cartilage. The joint itself is held in place by tendons, which connect bones and muscles, and ligaments, that connect the bones to bones. Synovial joints exist interdependently with the muscles that surround them. Not only do the joints respond to the will of the muscles, the muscles are also responsive to the goings on in the joints. In any case, the plant possesses a mucilagenous quality that coats and lubricates enflamed tissues while reducing friction and irritation. Solomon’s Seal also helps restore pliancy to tendons and ligaments by supplying moisture to them if they are atrophied. It is specifically indicated for tendonitis and other repetitive motion injuries.
The allantoin in Solomon’s Seal acts as an anti-inflammatory that is good for joints. Not only does Solomon’s Seal help to calcify and strengthen broken and normal bones, but it also decalcifies unhealthy deposits of Osteoarthritis in the joint spaces. For those with Thumb (CMC Joint) Arthritis, Solomon’s Seal may be of significant value.
Enhancing Solomon’s Seal’s Effectiveness with other Herbs
In our intense study and observation of Solomon’s Seal’s palliative effects on various conditions, we have been inspired to integrate its use with other esteemed healing herbs. In our Cortesia Solomon’s Seal Tincture, Formula #1 – Arthritis & Joint Repair, we have combined it with Gravel Root and Pleurisy Root. Gravel Root is specifically indicated for arthritis for it brings minerals into and out of solution, hence its use as a remedy to dissolve and remove deposits in joints. Pleurisy Root is indicated in cases of acute inflammation, arthritis, bursitis, lack of lubrication, or clicking in the joints.
Our Cortesia Solomon’s Seal Tincture, Formula #3 – Cartilage & Tissue Repair is integrated with the highly respected Horsetail plant. Horsetail’s high silica content helps to rebuild damaged cartilage and structures. It strengthens connective tissue, bones, cartilage, mucous membranes, arteries, skin, and other tissue.
Of course, regular Solomon’s Seal works to harmonize, feed, lubricate, and tighten or loosen (as needed) tendons, ligaments, attachments, and joints. It is also a valuable connective tissue anti-inflammatory, and is known to help moderate the symptoms of osteoarthritis. It has many other benefits described in other articles on our website and blog.
For further information and available products, please visit our website: http://www.solomonsseal.net.