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De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis

What is de Quervain’s disease?

De Quervain’s tendinitis occurs when the tendons around the base of the thumb are irritated or constricted. De Quervain’s (say “duh-kair-VAZ”) disease is a problem that makes the bottom of your thumb and the side of your wrist hurt. When you have de Quervain’s disease, the ropey fiber (tendon) that helps move your thumb away from your fingers becomes swollen. The word “tendinitis” refers to a swelling of the tendons. Thickening of the tendons can cause pain and tenderness along the thumb side of the wrist. This is particularly noticeable when forming a fist, grasping or gripping things, or when turning the wrist.

What are tendonitis and tenosynovitis and what causes them?

Tendonitis and tenosynovitis are types of tendon injury. They can often occur together. Strictly speaking:

  • Tendonitis means inflammation of a tendon. (It is sometimes spelt tendinitis.)
  • Tenosynovitis means inflammation of the sheath that surrounds a tendon. (The sheath is called the synovium.)

What causes de Quervain’s disease?

People can get de Quervain’s disease when they hurt or use the thumb or wrist too much. Common activities that need your wrist and thumb can cause the problem. Some activities that might cause de Quervain’s disease are:

  • Wringing out wet clothes.
  • Hammering.
  • Skiing.
  • Knitting.

Lifting heavy objects such as a jug of milk, taking a frying pan off of the stove, or lifting a baby out of a crib.


  • Pain may be felt over the thumb side of the wrist. This is the main symptom. The pain may appear either gradually or suddenly. Pain is felt in the wrist and can travel up the forearm. The pain is usually worse when the hand and thumb are in use. This is especially true when forcefully grasping objects or twisting the wrist.
  • Swelling may be seen over the thumb side of the wrist. This swelling may occur together with a fluid-filled cyst in this region.
  • 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.
  • Numbness may be experienced on the back of the thumb and index finger. This is caused as the nerve lying on top of the tendon sheath is irritated.

How is it Diagnosed?

Your doctor will check for swelling, tenderness, or numbness around the base of the thumb. There may also be crackling or popping when you move your thumb.

What are my treatment options?

Your doctor might give you a corticosteroid shot, also called a steroid shot. A medicine called steroid is injected into your wrist area and the bottom of your thumb. If your wrist and thumb do not feel better after this your doctor might discuss surgical options with you.