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What you should know about De Quervains Tenosynovitis

What You Should Know about De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis

by Shelia M. Tenny, OTR/L, CHTLeave a Comment

De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis (Pronounced Deh-KWUHR-vanes ten-oh-sin-oh-VITE-us) is the formal name for a condition that has many other more common names such as “mother’s thumb,” “mommy wrist,” “washer woman’s syndrome,” and “gamer’s thumb.” This condition is often associated with repetitive hand, thumb, and wrist use. Fritz de Quervain named this condition in the early 1900s. He was a Swiss-born surgeon, who was also responsible for introducing iodized table salt to help prevent thyroid disease, called a goiter.

Tenosynovitis (tendon sheath inflammation), tendinopathy (tendon disease), and tendinitis (tendon inflammation) are related and sometimes interchanged terms for conditions caused by inflammation or thickening of the tendons and other soft tissue structures surrounding those tendons. Normal tendons move freely in their sheath or covering. Inflammation is typically caused by overuse, repetitive use, or trauma to the tendons or soft tissues. This results in swelling or thickening of tendons or the sheathe around them, which may prevent smooth movement. Arthritis, diabetes, and pregnancy increase the likelihood of developing tendinopathies in the wrist or hands. Tendinopathy symptoms can include tenderness, swelling, pain with stretching, stiffness, and a grating sound or feeling. When the tendons are not moving freely, this results in decreased blood flow and nutrition to the tendon, which degrades the health of the tendon.

De Quervain’s is a specific type of tenosynovitis of two tendons at the base of the thumb. It is often the result of repetitive side to side motion of the wrist, when lifting an infant with the wrists turned to the side, and even frequent video gaming can be enough to aggravate these tendons. The tunnel, or compartment, that these tendons travel through, becomes narrow and causes increased friction as the tendons pass over the pointed end of the radius, the end of the long bone on the thumb side of the forearm. This can cause significant pain and limit function.

So, what should you do if you believe you have De Quervain’s?

  1. First, you can always consult an Athletico hand therapist through a free Assessment to get you headed down the right path to healing.
  2. Second, rest, either by avoiding the provoking movements, if possible, or wearing a brace or orthosis, which limits movement at the base of the thumb and wrist. First aid treatments of application of ice, compression, through a brace or ace bandage, and elevation can also provide some symptom relief. Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter medication to decrease the inflammation, and a local steroid injection can be administered to deliver anti-inflammatory medication to the site where the tendons are inflamed. Formal hand therapy may be indicated. A hand therapist has an arsenal of techniques and treatments to decrease stiffness, pain, and swelling and can recommend specific stretches, exercises, and techniques, to improve your range of motion and strength while allowing the tendons to heal.
  3. Lastly, surgery may be indicated if conservative measures are unsuccessful. Again, a hand therapist can guide you through the recovery process after an initial period of immobilization. The goal of hand therapy is to preserve the surgical repairs while restoring range of motion, decreasing pain, and swelling, and building back hand and arm strength to return to household tasks, employment, and leisure activities.

Take Care of Yourself

If you believe you have De Quervain’s, schedule a free assessment with us. Our team of experts will assess your condition and provide treatment plans to help you heal. Free assessments are available in clinic or virtually through our Telehealth platform.

Request a Free Assessment

*Per federal guidelines, beneficiaries of plans such as Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, VHA and other federally funded plans are not eligible for free assessments.

The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

Saunders, Rebecca, et al. “33.” Hand and Upper Extremity Rehabilitation: A Practical Guide, 3rd ed., Elsevier Health Sciences, St. Louis, MO, 2006, pp. 441–452.
Meals, Roy. “Doctors Demystify the Wrist.” Conference, 2014.
Wikipedia. “Fritz De Quervain.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 28 Sept. 2021,


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About the Author:
Shelia Tenny is an Occupational Therapist and Certified Hand Therapist. She is passionate about helping those with hand, wrist, elbow, and shoulder pain, including arthritis, sprains, strains, fractures, tendon, and nerve injuries. Sheila has certifications in ergonomic assessments in the workplace and ASTYM, which uses specialized handheld tools to manipulate soft tissue to facilitate healing and tissue regeneration.

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