De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is a swelling of the tendons that run through the inner portion of the wrist to the thumb. When these tendons become irritated, they cause significant pain in the wrist and thumb area. Tendons can become restricted when the protective tunnel they run through swells, tightening around them. The exact cause of De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is unknown, but it worsens with repetitive motions that pull the tendons in the area.
- Pain when gripping something
- Stiffness/Difficulty moving thumb
- Swelling at base of thumb
- Injury to the wrist
- Repetitive, awkward use of thumb
Treating De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis
To immediately relieve symptoms of De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, your orthopedic hand specialist may suggest keeping your wrist straight with a brace and icing the area.
Physical therapy is usually a very effective way to treat De Quervain’s tenosynovitis. A physical therapist will manage inflammation with ultrasound or ice. Once swelling is reduced, the tendons of the wrist and thumb are stretched to regain range of motion. A physical therapy regimen will then focus on strengthening the muscles of the hand and wrist, which will increase resilience to stressful motions and relieve irritation of the tendons. A therapist can also guide a patient through work station ergonomics and daily activities that trigger pain, correcting movements to take stress off of the thumb and wrist area.
A steroid injection is also beneficial in cases of chronic De Quervain’s tenosynovitis. The anti-inflammatory medication is injected directly into the tendons, relieving inflammation for months at a time, depending on the individual.
In extreme cases, you may need surgery to correct De Quervain’s tenosynovitis. Your orthopedic hand surgeon would make an incision and then surgically open up the sheath that your swollen tendons run through, giving them room to shift without irritation.