Condition: De Quervain Tenosynovitis is a disease that causes the tendons around the base of the thumb to become irritated and painful.
Background: Most experts believe De Quervain Tenosynovitis is caused by overuse, although the exact cause is not known. It can develop after a thumb injury, repetitive movements, rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.
Risk Factors: De Quervain Tenosynovitis affects more women than men, particularly middle-aged women and women who have recently given birth. Workers who must forcefully grip items or repetitively use their thumb are also at greater risk. Additionally, certain leisure activities can put people at risk—like golfing, gardening and playing racquet sports.
History and Symptoms: Pain is typically felt along the back of the thumb, up the wrist and into the forearm. It can happen gradually or suddenly, and it is often hard or painful to move the thumb. Pinching or grasping items may be difficult, and the thumb may be swollen or hard to move.
Physical Exam: Physicians usually perform the Finkelstein test: the patient makes a fist, with the thumb resting inside the palm. Next, the physician bends the wrist toward the outside. If there’s pain, it usually indicates De Quervain Tenosynovitis.
Diagnostic Process: The Finkelstein test alone is often all that is needed to diagnose De Quervain Tenosynovitis.
Rehab Management: A corticosteroid injection is one of the best ways to reduce swelling and pain. Examples of other therapies include icing the area, wearing a thumb split or taking topical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Patients should stop doing anything that might worsen the condition.
Other Resources for Patients and Families: Patients and families should recognize that even though only the thumb is affected, the patient may still need significant support. This includes help with basic tasks like getting dressed, as well as encouragement and social support.