De Quervain's tenosynovitis is an inflammation of the sheaths of the tendons (tenosynovium) that move the thumb away from the hand. It is technically referred to as a stenosing tenosynovitis. 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


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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.

Risk Factors

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 or wrestling

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, spreading to the index finger

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

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.


Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:

Conservative Measures

Nonsurgical methods to help relieve pain include:

  • Resting the thumb and wrist
  • Using an ice pack for 15-20 minutes at a time—place a towel between the ice pack and your skin
  • Avoiding activity that causes the pain
  • Using a thumb splint to reduce pain and swelling to allow the wrist to rest
  • Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as naproxen or ibuprofen.
Cortisone Injection

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


If other methods do not help, 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.


Follow these steps to help reduce your chances of getting de Quervain's:

  • Minimize repetitive thumb activity, or twisting and gripping activities
  • Reduce stress on you hands through ergonomic practices at work