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What is DeQuervain’s Tenosynovitis?

From a simple sprain to severe arthritis, many different problems can cause pain or swelling of the wrist. One of the more common causes of wrist pain and swelling is DeQuervain’s tenosynovitis. DeQuervain’s tenosynovitis is inflammation of the tissue on the thumb side of the wrist. Tendons (cord-like fibers that attach muscle to bone) and synovium (a slick membrane that covers tendons and allows them to move easily) become irritated, causing pain. The pain is felt on the thumb side of the wrist, and swelling is often present. Your doctor can tell, from examining the wrist and hand, whether the tendons are inflamed.

Causes of DeQuervain’s Tenosynovitis

Causes of DeQuervain’s include the repetitive motion of the wrist, overuse, direct trauma, and inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. DeQuervain’s often occurs in new mothers, as they overuse their wrists lifting little ones.

Treatment Includes:

  • Rest (taking a break from activities that cause pain).
  • Oral anti-inflammatory medications (to decrease inflammation).
  • A thumb spica splint (to rest the thumb and wrist and to decrease inflammation).
  • A small injection of cortisone in the wrist (to decrease inflammation).

A physician may recommend surgery if other treatments do not relieve the pain. The ligament tunnel that surrounds the tendons is released so the tendons can move easily. This release helps to reduce inflammation and pain. Sometimes, hand therapy is needed after surgery to regain strength and motion and decrease swelling and pain.
Many patients’ pain and swelling resolve with non-operative treatment. If surgery is required, the recovery period is short, with minimal limitation in using your hand.

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