De Quervain’s

by | Apr 30, 2022 | Blog

De Quervain’s is the term given to pain around the base and side of the thumb and wrist caused by inflammation of the tendons (Tendonitis) or the inflammation of the sheath that surrounds the tendon (Tenosynovitis).

What causes it?

The inflammation may be caused by anything that causes swelling or thickening of the tendons that includes:

  • Repetitive trauma
  • Overuse
  • Arthritis

It can also develop for no clear reason.

Risk factores include

  • Age – More common in people between the ages of 30 and 50.
  • Sex – It is more common in women.
  • Pregnancy. – De Quervain’s may be associated with pregnancy.
  • Baby care. – Lifting your child repeatedly involves using your thumbs as leverage and may cause swelling or thickening of the tendon.
  • Occupation and leisure activities – Activities that involve repetitive hand and wrist motions may lead to De Quervain’s


  • Wrist and forearm pain on the side of the thumb
  • Swelling near the base of your thumb
  • ‘Catching or snapping’ of the tendons
  • Pain with certain positions and movements of the wrist and thumb
  • Numbness might be present at the base of the thumb

The main symptom is pain over the thumb side of the wrist. It may develop suddenly or gradually. It is worse with use of the hand and thumb, especially forceful grasping, pinching & twisting.

What can a doctor do to help?

  • Your doctor may choose to inject a corticosteroid — a powerful anti-inflammatory medication — into the area. In some cases, this improves the problem but usually the relief is only temporarily, and another injection is needed. If two injections fail to resolve the problem, surgery should be considered.
  • The goal of surgery is to widen the opening of the tunnel so that the tendons can slide through it more easily. The surgery is performed through a small incision in the side of your wrist. The surgeon opens the compartment to make more room for the inflamed tendons, which breaks the cycle where the tight space causes more friction.

What can a therapist do to help?

  • Provide a hand splint to support the thumb and the wrist.
  • Help identify aggravating activities and suggest alternative postures.
  • Massage, heat, ice and other treatments aimed at reducing pain and improving mobility.
  • Strengthening of affected muscles

Schedule an Appointment

For an integrated approach to Occupational Therapy services, contact us on the details below.

Hands, Lymphoedema & Breast Cancer

079 491 6450