Have you heard of de Quervain’s tenosynovitis (dih-kwer-VAINS ten-oh-sine-oh-VIE-tis)? De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, also known as de Quervain’s syndrome, occurs when the tendons around the thumb are irritated and inflamed.
What are risk factors associated with the development of de Quervain’s syndrome?
- Overuse or repetitive activities that involve hand and/or wrist movement
- Ages 30–50
- Pregnancy and postpartum (the repetitive motion of lifting an infant has been linked to the development of de Quervain’s)
- Rheumatoid disease
What are the symptoms of de Quervain’s tenosynovitis?
- Pain and/or swelling at the base of thumb, side of the wrist
- Can occur suddenly or gradually
- Pain may travel into the forearm
- Increasing pain with movement of the thumb and/or wrist
- Numbness to the back of the thumb and index finger
- Difficulty with hand-intensive tasks such as opening a jar; difficulty holding, pinching, or gripping objects; turning the wrist; or forming a fist
- “Catching” or “snapping” sensation felt with movement
- Stiffness when moving the thumb or wrist
Are tests available to diagnose this condition?
De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is typically a clinical diagnosis—meaning diagnostic tests are not beneficial (unless needed to rule out other conditions); however, your provider may perform the Finkelstein test to determine whether you have de Quervain’s. The Finkelstein test requires the patient to place the affected thumb in the palm of their hand (wrapping fingers over thumb, like making a fist) and then bending the wrist toward your little finger. The test is considered positive if pain is experienced during this maneuver.
How is de Quervain’s treated?
If you are experiencing hand/wrist/thumb pain, make an appointment with your healthcare provider to discuss treatment options and diagnosis. De Quervain’s is often self-limited (meaning it goes away on its own; however, this may take up to one year) and non-progressive. Goals of treatment are symptom relief and increased function. Treatment options include:
- Avoidance of aggravating activity
- Ergonomic awareness and use of ergonomic-friendly equipment
- Over-the-counter medication (such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, naproxen) to reduce swelling and alleviate pain
- Forearm-based thumb splint
- Exercises, stretching
- Corticosteroid injections
- Surgery may be necessary if symptoms are severe
If you are experiencing hand, wrist, or thumb pain, make an appointment with your healthcare provider to discuss possible diagnoses and develop a treatment plan.
Marijke Vroomen Durning, “Tenosynovitis,” HealthGrades, August 23, 2020.
OrthoInfo, “De Quervain’s Tendinosis,” December 2013.
Rohit Aggarwal, David Ring, “de Quervain tendinopathy,” UpToDate, January 2, 2020.
StatPearls, “De Quervain Tenosynovitis,” August 8, 2021.
University of Michigan Health, “De Quervain Tenosynovitis.”