De Quervain tenosynovitis is an irritation of tendons that run from the wrist to the thumb. These tendons pass through a tunnel-like tissue, called a sheath, at the wrist. The tunnel area can cause additional pressure and irritation on thickened or swollen tendons, making normal movements painful.
De Quervain is caused by pressure on already irritated tendons as they move through the sheath at the wrist. The irritation of the tendon may be caused by repetitive movements of the thumb and wrists or a direct blow to the area.
De Quervain tenosynovitis is more common in women. Activities that may increase your chance of getting de Quervain tenosynovitis include:
- Knitting and needlepoint
- Lifting a baby or young child often
- Bowling or wrestling
- Jobs involving twisting of the wrist or driving of screws
- Excessive gaming that involves small movements of the thumb or texting
Symptoms may include:
- Pain or tenderness at the base of the thumb
- Pain when pinching
- Swelling over the thumb side of the wrist
- A snapping or catching sensation when moving the thumb
- Numbness on the back of the thumb, spreading to the index finger
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You will be asked to move your fingers and wrists in different ways to help make the diagnosis. Your may be asked to make a fist with your thumb inside your fingers and bend your wrist toward your little finger. If this causes pain at the wrist below your thumb, you may have de Quervain tenosynovitis.
The goal of treatment is to relieve pain and help you regain function. Supportive care may include:
- Restricting activities of the thumb and wrist
- Ice therapy to help relieve swelling
- A thumb splint to support and allow the wrist to rest
- Medication such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
If supportive care is not helpful, then cortisone injections may be advised to reduce swelling. If injections are not helpful, then surgery may be advised to open the tunnel that the tendon passes through.
To help reduce the chances of getting de Quervain:
- Minimize repetitive thumb activity, or twisting and gripping activities
- Reduce stress on your hands through ergonomic practices at work
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review BoardTeresa Briedwell, PT, DPT
- Review Date: 03/2018 -
- Update Date: 04/30/2014 -