What is de Quervain’s tenosynovitis?
De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is the inflammation of tendons on the thumb side of the wrist. The pain comes from the extensor tendon and abductor tendon starting at the base of the thumb. These tendons help lift the thumb up and away from the hand. Tendons in the hand pass through a tunnel of cartilage. Once the tendon gets inflamed, passing through the tunnels can be painful. Some common symptoms include pain, stiffness, and swelling near the base of the thumb. The pain can often present when lifting an object or making a fist. Others may feel a catching or clicking sensation when moving the thumb.
Beware of the risk factors
The condition can be painful and will continue if left untreated. Some persons may even lose grip strength and develop a weakened hand. While the condition can affect anyone, some persons are more at risk than others. Pay attention to the following risk factors, and take action immediately.
The result of an active text life
De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is often called texter’s thumb, as persons who spend extended periods on phones are at risk. Phones and tablets need both thumbs and quick, repeated movements. This movement can lead to undue stress and inflammation on the outer tendons. Besides texting, other activities like typing or operating heavy tools can cause pain. Make sure to rest and schedule a doctor’s visit for help.
Early mothers are especially at risk
Before getting the name texter’s thumb, De Quervain’s was commonly called mommy’s thumb. Mothers spend hours lifting and holding newborn babies. The repetitive movement can place a strain on the tendons in the dominant hand. With the added fluid retention that happens during pregnancy, the joints are more likely to be inflamed. While new mothers are at risk, stay-at-home dads can get mommy’s thumb too!
A previous injury or wrist condition
Persons with a past wrist or hand injury can develop de Quervain’s. The surrounding muscles, tendons, and ligaments can weaken, causing inflammation. Past hand surgeries may also affect the strength of the tendons. In both cases, scar tissue can impact the tendons, causing pain.
Have arthritis? Look out for de Quervain’s
Arthritis is the inflammation and gradual disease of joints. While there are several forms, rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is especially harmful to joints. RA can affect even small joints and tendons like those on the wrist and thumb. And since arthritis is common in older persons, old age becomes a natural risk factor as well.
Treating de Quervain’s tenosynovitis
The condition is difficult to treat, as most cases are repetitive stress injuries. The actions that cause harm are difficult to stop. However, consistent rest is one of the best ways to treat de Quervain’s. Rest the wrist on an elevated surface or pillow for extended periods. A splint or brace can also help with reducing pain. If the pain continues, healthcare providers and physical therapists can help with medication and therapy. If all fails, surgery may help to remove some of the inflamed tissue.
Don’t ignore hand and wrist pain
Because the hands and wrist are used so often, there is always a possibility of injury. Conditions like de Quervain’s tenosynovitis can quickly develop. Ignoring the pain is easy but is dangerous over time. If these risk factors are a possibility, start with non-surgical techniques as soon as possible. If these fail to bring relief, seek medical attention as soon as possible.