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.
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.
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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, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritz_de_Quervain.