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Tendons are the cords that connect bones to muscles in the body. They are covered by a sleeve-like tissue. Tenosynovitis is an inflammation of this sleeve, and it occurs most often in the hand, wrist or foot.



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Most cases of tenosynovitis are caused by one of the following:

  • Injury
  • Infection
  • Strain
  • Repetitive motions such as those used for:
    • Computer operation
    • Assembly line work
    • Cash register operation
    • Sports that involve repetitive actions
    • Sewing
    • Playing musical instruments


Factors that may increase your risk of tenosynovitis include:

  • Repetitive actions with your hand, wrist or foot during work or play
  • Diseases that cause inflammation such as gout and rheumatoid arthritis


Tenosynovitis may cause:

  • Joint pain
  • Joint stiffness
  • Joint swelling
  • Difficulty moving a joint
  • Redness along the length of the tendon

Tenosynovitis is common in the tendons of the thumb. This is called de Quervain’s tenosynovitis. It causes pain and stiffness in the thumb side of the wrist.

The wrists, hands, and feet are also commonly affected. Tenosynovitis that affects tendons of the fingers can also make the finger stick in a bent position.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam assesses the joint.

A blood test may also be done to look for signs of bacterial infection or other conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. 

Treatment aims to reduce swelling and pain and to allow the tendon to move freely. 


Resting the involved joint is often the best treatment for tenosynovitis. A brace or splint may help you rest the joint. Rest may be combined with basic stretching and strengthening exercises.

Ice and Heat

Applying ice or heat to the area may decrease pain and swelling. Start with ice, especially soon after the injury. If ice is not helpful, try heat.


Several medications are used to treat tenosynovitis.


Surgery may help severe tenosynovitis. The surgery will release the tendon and allow it to move freely.


To prevent tenosynovitis, avoid overuse of your tendons. Take the following steps if you have a job or hobby that involves repetitive motions of the hand, wrist, or foot:

  • Adjust your workspace to minimize the strain on your joints
  • Alternate activities when possible
  • Take breaks throughout the day
  • Exercise regularly


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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