What is De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis?

De Quervain’s tenosynovitis involves inflammation and irritation of two of the tendons that move the thumb (the extensor pollicis brevis and abductor pollicis longus). It typically presents as pain at the base of the thumb and wrist which usually comes on gradually over time. Pain is worsened by activities that involve use of the thumb and wrist such as repetitive manual tasks (e.g. hammering or lifting).

What causes De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis?

De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is usually caused by unaccustomed use (overuse) of the thumb, wrist or hand. This may occur after having a baby (due to the repetitive lifting, carrying and holding involved in caring for a newborn), following an unusual bout of manual work, or with prolonged computer use with poor ergonomics. The unaccustomed use causes overload in the tendons which can result in inflammation, irritation, swelling and pain.

Management for De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis

Conservative/Physiotherapy management involves reducing the load on the irritated tendons followed by rehabilitation to allow a return to full function. This is may be achieved through:

  • Activity modification to ensure good ergonomics and lifting/carrying/loading technique;
  • Exercises to improve wrist, hand and thumb strength; and
  • Bracing (in some cases) to reduce load on the irritated tendons. The brace still allows use of the hand but reduces activity in the overloaded thumb tendons.

De Quervain’s tenosynovitis typically responds well to appropriate care, so don’t just push on through the pain, seek help! Get in contact to see how we can help manage your pain.