Thumb Hurt? It May Be De Quervain's Tenosynovitis

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When most people hear tendonitis, they usually think of the common lay term "tennis elbow." Tendonitis is an inflammation in a tendon, the fibrous cord that attaches muscle to bone. While the elbow is a common site for tendonitis, it can develop in any tendon. As repetitive movement can bring on inflammation, athletes and other active individuals are frequently diagnosed with not only tennis elbow but also conditions such as golf elbow, swimmer's shoulder, and runner's knee.

Another type of tendonitis not heard of as often but still common is de Quervain's tenosynovitis. This condition bears the name of the Swiss surgeon who first described the condition in his patients with wrist and hand pain that occurred only on the same side as their thumb. Here's what you need to know about this rarely-talked-about form of tendonitis.

What Is De Quervain's Tenosynovitis?

Your thumb is connected to the muscles in your wrist and forearm by tendons. These tendons are covered by a sheath, and the lining of this protective sheath produces a lubricant that allows for easier movement when you bend and straighten your thumb and wrist. If the tendon becomes inflamed and swollen, it can't slide in this sheath as easily, which results in pain.

What Are The Symptoms Of De Quervain's Tenosynovitis?

In addition to pain when moving your thumb, the base of your thumb down to your wrist can become swollen. Making a pinching movement, such as when picking something up, can be difficult. Your thumb can also have the sensation of "getting stuck" and temporarily locking when trying to move it. De Quervain's tenosynovitis is different from another common wrist and hand condition, carpal tunnel syndrome. With this condition, the primary nerve, the median nerve, becomes compressed. Weakness and pain and tingling throughout the wrist, fingers and thumb, or up the arm are the primary symptoms.

Who Gets De Quervain's Tenosynovitis?

Women are at more risk of developing de Quervain's tenosynovitis. This may be because they aren't typically as strong as men so normal household tasks, such as opening a jar, may cause more stress on their tendons. Hormones may also play a role as this condition is frequently seen in pregnant women. Repetitive tasks, like picking up babies, typing, and crocheting or knitting are also tasks more commonly associated with women. Rheumatoid arthritis and direct injury to the wrist or hand can also lead to de Quervain's tenosynovitis in either sex.

How Is De Quervain's Tenosynovitis Treated?

Over-the-counter analgesics, rest, and ice packs can reduce pain and swelling. Wearing a special brace that prohibits certain movements may also be useful. Your doctor may use cortisone shots or even surgery in more severe cases. It is important to see your physician so he or she can definitively distinguish between de Quervain's tenosynovitis and carpal tunnel syndrome as well as look for underlying factors, such as rheumatoid arthritis or injury.

Contact a tendonitis treatment services clinic for more information.