Tendinitis of thumb (Dequervain’s tenosynovitis)

Treatment that delivers better results

What is the problem?

Two of the main tendons to the thumb pass through a tunnel located on the thumb side of the wrist.

These tendons are covered by a slippery, thin, soft-tissue layer called synovium.

This layer allows the tendons to slide easily through a fibrous tunnel called a tendon sheath.

Any swelling of the tendons and/or thickening of the sheath, results in increased friction and pain with certain thumb and wrist movements.

What causes the problem?

  • Most commonly associated with repetitive use.
  • Known as writers cramp.
  • This is a common condition in people caring for young babies or children.
  • Thumb tendinitis rarely affects men, but common in middle aged women.

What are the signs and symptoms?

  • Pain may be felt over the thumb side of the wrist or can travel up the forearm.
  • The pain is worse when forcefully grasping objects or twisting the wrist.
  • Swelling may be seen over the thumb side of the wrist.
  • A “Catching” or “Snapping” sensation may be felt when moving the thumb.
  • Pain and swelling may make it difficult to move the thumb and wrist.

How do I manage this problem?

  • Anti-inflammatory medication (Ibuprofen) may help reduce the swelling and relieve pain.
  • Rest. Simple thumb splints may be used to rest the thumb and wrist.
  • Avoiding activities that cause pain and swelling may ease the symptoms on their own.

What other treatments are available?

  • Corticosteroid injection into the tendon sheath may help reduce the swelling and pain

Hand pain advice

Carpal tunnel syndrome

Complex regional pain syndrome

Hand booklet

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