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De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis: Overuse Thumb Pain

De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis: Overuse Thumb Pain
De Quervain's Tenosynovitis: Overuse Thumb Pain

De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis: A Common Cause Of Thumb Pain

De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is a condition that causes pain associated with movement of the thumb. The pain with this conditions is located at the wrist on the thumb side, specifically when holding your thumb out in front of you in the hitch hiking position the pain in de Quervain’s tenosynovitis is at the top part of the wrist and can extend further down the wrist towards the the thumb or up the wrist into the lower forearm. The cause of the thumb pain with de Quervain’s tenosynovitis is typically inflammation. The inflammation involves the synovium, which is the lining of the sheath surrounding the tendon as it travels across the wrist towards the thumb. This inflammation is a reaction to over use of the tendons that move your thumb.

Signs And Symptoms Of De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis

If you have De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, it will probably hurt when you are grasping objects, turn your wrist, make a fist or perform pinching movements with your thumb.
You may also have:
• Pain and swelling near the base of your thumb.
• Palpable creaking sensations with the tendons at and above your wrist.
• A “sticking” or “catching” sensation in your thumb when moving it.
If you allow the condition to go on too long without treatment, the pain may spread further into your thumb, back into your forearm or both.

Causes Of Thumb Pain Associated With De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis

Chronic overuse of your thumb and wrist is commonly associated with de Quervain’s tenosynovitis. Tendons are rope-like structures that attach muscle to bone and when you grip, grasp, clench, pinch or wring anything in your hand, two tendons in your wrist and lower thumb normally glide smoothly through the small tunnel that connects them to the base of the thumb. Repeating a particular motion day after day may irritate the sheath around the two tendons, causing thickening and swelling that restricts their movement creating thumb pain.

This cause of thumb pain is common in pregnancy and new mothers. The constant motion of lifting, patting and carrying your baby can cause overload to the tendons and subsequently cause thumb pain. With new mothers all these activities go from 0 to 100 overnight once the baby is born so there is no loading or conditioning period allowing the body time to adapt, hence the overused tendon/tendon sheath become inflamed and painful frequently in this population.

Who Experiences Thumb Pain From De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis?

De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis is not exclusively an issue for pregnant women or new mothers, it is most commonly seen in people aged 30-50 years old, more common in women than men. In the general population it is an overuse injury and is seldom caused as the result of an accident or specific incident but more often than not related to a repetitive load or stress on the thumb.
Other causes of de Quervain’s tenosynovitis include:
• Direct injury to your wrist or tendon; this can cause scar tissue can restrict movement of the tendons or directly create an inflammatory situation with the tendon and tendon sheath.
• Inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Disclaimer: Sydney Physio Clinic does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products mentioned. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific advice or assistance regarding De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis: Overuse Thumb Pain should consult his or her general practitioner or physiotherapist or suitably skilled practitioner.

Hayden Latimer is the founder of and principle physiotherapist at Sydney Physio Clinic. Since graduating from Otago University, Dunedin, New Zealand he’s gained wide experience practicing across the globe for over 15 years and is now extremely knowledgeable in helping people reduce discomfort and restore function and mobility.


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