De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis

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Who, what, where? We learn new words every day!

Time for a definition!

De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is a painful condition on the thumb side of the wrist. It is not necessarily caused by significant strain or trauma. This type of condition is often found in patients whose activities require repetitive movements. The pain arises when you pick something up (even something light) or when making a fist. The thumb may also feel stiff or “stuck.”

What exactly is happening?

This is an irritation of the tendons of the thumb, whether the short extensor or the long abductor. A fibrous sheath envelops these two tendons, leaving little space between them and encouraging greater friction. This condition is the result of repeated micro-traumas to the thumb in the context of office work or meticulous manual tasks.

What symptoms might indicate to me that I have this condition?

Are there tests I can take to make my diagnosis “official”?

Traditional X-rays generally show no abnormality. An ultrasound may confirm inflammation of the affected tendons, but this is not required for treatment.

OK, but is this treatable?

This condition sometimes heals on its own, but generally only after 6 to 18 months of constant pain, causing considerable disability, even the cessation of all professional and daily activities.

The first step is to stop the activity that is causing the condition. Taking anti-inflammatory medication and applying ice can help to lessen the inflammation. A partial or complete break from the activity may be necessary. The use of a splint can be a great way to continue engaging in some activities without irritating the thumb.

Conservative physical therapy treatments can speed up healing, thus reducing the risk of compensation, recurrence, and long-term consequences. The traditional physical therapy treatments are as follows:

In most cases, surgery is not even considered. But for persistent cases, local cortisone injections are sometimes recommended in combination with physical therapy treatments.