Do you experience intense pain when moving your wrist or thumb? Your first thought might be carpal tunnel, but it's also possible that you have a condition called De Quervain's tenosynovitis.
What is De Quervain's tenosynovitis?
De Quervain's tenosynovitis is a common but painful condition where the tendons connecting the thumb to the wrist become inflamed. As the tendons swell, the surrounding sheath compresses the tendons, causing pain from the thumb to the wrist. The pain may travel up the arm. Typically, the pain worsens when the hand is in use, and decreases with rest.
If you have De Quervain's, you may also notice slight swelling around the thumb. Your thumb may also feel as if it catches on something when you move it. To diagnose the problem, your doctor will use something called the Finkelstein test. This involves folding your thumb against your hand, and making a fist that encompasses your thumb. Once your hand is balled into a fist, your doctor will have you move your wrist side to side. If you experience pain, your doctor will likely diagnose you with De Quervain's. However, x-rays may still be used to rule out the possibility of a fracture.
Causes and prevention
There are a few possible causes of De Quervain's. Many times, the condition is caused by overuse. Activities such as playing video games, working in the garden, shooting a gun, and using a computer mouse can all cause—or aggravate—the condition. De Quervain's is also common among pregnant women and new mothers, possibly because of hormone changes.
De Quervain's is sometimes caused by an underlying health condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis. It is over eight times as likely to occur in women than in men. There's no way to guarantee you won't develop De Quervain's, or that it won't recur. However, stretches and exercises that strengthen the thumb and wrist may reduce the risk of reinjury.
Is De Quervain's treatable?
Many patients with De Quervain's respond well to treatment. Your doctor will likely recommend rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medication until the initial pain goes away. At that point, you may be referred to a physical therapist to work on stretching and strengthening the tendons in the thumb. If the pain doesn't go away, steroid injections are usually successful at relieving symptoms of the condition. In rare cases, surgery to cut open the sheath around the tendon may be necessary. Cutting open the sheath gives the inflamed tendons extra room.
If you suspect you may have De Quervain's tenosynovitis, talk to your doctor (like those at Entira Family Clinics) about possible treatment options.