De Quervain's Tenosynovitis

De Quervain's tenosynovitis is a painful condition characterized by swollen tendons that run along the thumb side of the wrist attached to the base of the thumb. Pain from de Quervain's tenosynovitis may worsen when the hand, thumb or wrist is used. Other symptoms include numbness along the back of the thumb and index finger, a "catching" or "snapping" feeling when moving the thumb and a squeaking sound as the tendons move within the swollen sheaths.

Chronic repetitive wrist movement is the most common cause of de Quervain's tenosynovitis. Other activities that raise a person's risk of de Quervain's tenosynovitis include lifting a child into a car seat, lifting heavy grocery bags by the handles and direct injury to the wrist or inflammatory arthritis. Nonsurgical treatments focus on reducing pain and swelling, such as:

  • Applying ice or heat compress
  • Taking NSAID medications
  • Avoiding activities that involve repetitive hand and wrist motions
  • Wearing a splint 24 hours a day for four to six weeks to rest the thumb and wrist
  • Injecting steroids or a local anesthetic into the tendon sheath

Severe de Quervain's tenosynovitis may require surgery followed by physical therapy to strengthen and restore the function of the wrist and thumb. Surgery aims to release the tendon sheath to make more room for irritated tendons without affecting hand/wrist function.