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Home > Services > Orthopedics > Hand Center > Hand & Arm Injuries > De Quervain's Tenosynovitis

De Quervain's Tenosynovitis

De Quervain's tenosynovitis is an inflammation of the sheaths of the tendons that move the thumb away from the hand. Both the tendons and their surrounding tissue sheaths are involved in the area where the tendon has to go through a small tunnel of bony and fibrous tissue at the wrist. The inflamed tenosynovium becomes painful at the tunnel area.

De Quervain's Tenosynovitis

De Quervain's Tenosynovitis

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De Quervain’s is a mechanical problem caused by repetitive use of the thumb and wrists. A direct blow to the area may also cause the condition.


De Quervain's tenosynovitis is more common in women. Other factors that may increase your chance of getting de Quervain's tenosynovitis include:

  • Knitting and needlepoint
  • Lifting a baby or young child often
  • Bowling


Symptoms may include:

  • Pain or tenderness at the base of the thumb
  • Pain when pinching
  • Swelling over the thumb side of the wrist
  • A snapping or catching sensation when moving the thumb
  • Numbness on the back of the thumb radiating to the index finger

Diagnosis & Treatment

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical exam.

The Finkelstein test is often done to help make the diagnosis. Make a fist with your thumb inside your fingers and bend your wrist toward your little finger. If this causes pain at the wrist below your thumb, you may have de Quervain's tenosynovitis.

Conservative Measures

Nonsurgical methods to help relieve pain include:

  • Resting the thumb and wrist.
  • Use an ice pack for 15-20 minutes at a time. Place a towel between the ice pack and your skin.
  • Avoid activity that causes the pain.
  • Using a thumb splint to reduce pain and swelling. This allows the wrist to rest.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Cortisone Injection

An injection of a cortisone-like drug into the tendon sheath is often effective in curing the condition.


When all else fails, an orthopedic surgeon will open up the small tunnel of bony and fibrous tissue and possibly remove some of the tendon sheath. This will allow more freedom of movement for the tendons.


To help reduce your chances of getting de Quervain's, minimize repetitive twisting and gripping activities.


Call us at 434.243.3675.


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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