De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis

What Is De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis?

De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, also known as De Quervain's stenosing tenosynovitis, is tendonitis of the wrist. Tendonitis of the wrist is an irritation and swelling of the wrist tunnel that the tendons of the thumb pass through on the way into the hand. The most common symptom of De Quervain's is a pain over the tunnel in the wrist when pinching, grasping, or stretching the wrist toward the small finger. Sometimes a swelling can be felt over this inflamed tunnel. 

At the Yale Hand and Microsurgery Program, our model of comprehensive care provides for complete treatment. Our goal is to reduce or eliminate the pain, weakness, and other symptoms associated with De Quervain’s tenosynovitis. 

Causes of De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis

De Quervain’s tenosynovitis

tends to be more common in women, aged 30 to 50. It tends to be associated with repetitive hand or wrist movement, pregnancy, a wrist injury, or rheumatoid arthritis.

Some activities that may cause repetitive stress include:

  • Gardening
  • Playing an instrument
  • Knitting, sewing, crocheting
  • Cooking
  • Lifting your baby
  • Walking your dog 
  • Playing a sport

At the Yale Hand and Microsurgery Program, an important part of the treatment process is finding the cause of your tendonitis. Helping you find ways to minimize or eliminate pressure on your tendons can prevent further or future inflammation.  

Symptoms of De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis

Symptoms of De Quervain's tenosynovitis include: 

  • Pain near the base of your thumb
  • Swelling near the base of your thumb
  • A fluid-filled cyst in the same region as the swelling and pain
  • Difficulty moving your thumb and wrist when you are doing activities that involve grasping or pinching
  • A "skipping" sensation in your thumb when trying to move it, as if your thumb is getting stuck
  • Pain when you turn your wrist or make a fist

In most cases, we can make a diagnosis of De Quervain's tenosynovitis by examining your wrist in an office visit.

This list should be used as a guideline. Not every symptom is included. If you or a loved one has one or more of these symptoms, it does not mean that he or she has De Quervain's tenosynovitis. If you are concerned that you or a loved one might have De Quervain's tenosynovitis, please make an appointment with your doctor.

Treatments for De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis

If you have De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, it is natural to wonder if you will need surgery to repair your wrist. The answer is not necessarily. The primary treatment for tendonitis of the wrist is to restrict movement of the base of the thumb and part of the wrist with a splint. Work modification and anti-inflammatory medications can also help. Steroid injections can be used to reduce the inflammation. 

If you acquired De Quervain’s tenosynovitis from a repetitive task, our clinical specialists will help you determine which activity, whether at work or at home, may have contributed to your De Quervain’s tenosynovitis. The goal is to limit those activities or modify them so that you do not have further or future issues with tendonitis in your wrist. 

If you have a more severe case of De Quervain’s, or if your tendonitis does not respond to non-surgical therapy, you may require outpatient surgery under local anesthesia. 

Our surgeons offer the latest techniques and specialized expertise while creating a treatment plan customized for you. At the Yale Hand and Microsurgery Program, you will be cared for by some of the country’s top surgeons specializing in microsurgery of the wrist, using minimally invasive techniques for a quicker recovery. 

J. Grant Thomson, MD, FRCS, FACS and Michael Matthew, MD have special interests in hand surgery, wrist surgery, microsurgery, and occupational disorders of the upper extremity.

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Hand & Microsurgery Program
Yale Physicians Building
800 Howard Avenue
New Haven, CT 06511
203.737.5130 or 203.785.2253

Yale Orthopedic Building
1445 Boston Post Road
Guilford, CT 06437