What is de Quervain’s Tendinosis?

De Quervain’s tendinosis is a painful swelling (inflammation) of specific tendons of the thumb. The condition is also known as de Quervain tendinitis or de Quervain’s tenosynovitis.

Tendons are bands of tissue that attach muscles to bones. Usually tendons slide easily through a tunnel of tissue called a sheath. The sheath keeps the tendons in place next to the bones of the thumb. Tendons that easily slide through their sheaths allow the thumb to move without difficulty or pain.

Any swelling of the tendons and/or thickening of the sheaths cause friction. The tendons can no longer easily slide through their sheaths. When this happens, certain thumb and wrist motions become more difficult to do.

What causes de Quervain’s tendinosis?

Overuse, a direct blow to the thumb, repetitive grasping and certain inflammatory conditions (such as rheumatoid arthritis), can all trigger the tendinosis. Gardening, racquet sports, and various workplace tasks are some activities that may aggravate the condition. Often, the cause is unknown. De Quervain’s affects women 8 to 10 times more often than men.

What are the symptoms of De Quervain’s tendinosis?

Pain and tenderness along the thumb side of the wrist or directly over 2 specific tendons in the thumb is common in cases of de Quervain’s. Pain worsens when the hand and thumb are in use. Pain can appear suddenly or develop over time. In either case, the pain may travel into the thumb or from the wrist to the lower arm (forearm). Thumb motion may be difficult and painful, particularly when pinching or grasping objects. You may feel a snapping or popping sensation when moving the thumb.

Some people also experience swelling and pain on the side of the wrist at the base of the thumb. The pain may increase with thumb and wrist-twisting motion. Some people feel pain if direct pressure is applied to the area.

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