Add your deal, information or promotional text

Great News! Now Tynor Australia is a NDIS Registered Provider

De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Have you ever experienced a sharp pain at the base of your thumb, making even simple tasks like grasping a cup or turning a doorknob feel like a chore? If so, you might be suffering from De Quervain's tenosynovitis, a common condition that inflames the tendons around your thumb.

What is it?

De Quervain's tenosynovitis is essentially an inflammation of the tendons that control your thumb movement. These tendons, located on the thumb side of your wrist, are surrounded by a protective sheath called the tenosynovium. When this sheath becomes inflamed and irritated, it causes pain, swelling, and difficulty moving your thumb.


The telltale sign of De Quervain's tenosynovitis is a sharp, stabbing pain at the base of your thumb, particularly near the wrist. This pain often worsens with activities that involve gripping, pinching, or making a fist, such as:

  • Holding a writing utensil
  • Turning a doorknob
  • Opening a jar
  • Picking up a child
  • Playing certain sports

Other symptoms may include:

  • Swelling around the base of your thumb
  • Tenderness to touch
  • Numbness or tingling along the thumb and index finger
  • A snapping or popping sensation when moving your thumb
  • Weakness in your thumb


The main culprit behind De Quervain's tenosynovitis is the overuse of the thumb and wrist. This can happen due to repetitive motions associated with activities like:

  • Typing or using a computer mouse
  • Playing musical instruments
  • Gardening
  • Playing certain sports, such as tennis or golf
  • Newborn care, especially for mothers who breastfeed

Other factors that can increase your risk of developing De Quervain's tenosynovitis include:

  • Pregnancy and hormonal changes
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Previous wrist injuries


Diagnosing De Quervain's tenosynovitis usually involves a physical examination by your doctor. They will ask about your symptoms, medical history, and any recent activities that might have put a strain on your thumb and wrist. They may also perform tests like the Finkelstein test, where your thumb is bent towards your palm and your wrist is bent towards your forearm. If pain is felt, it suggests De Quervain's tenosynovitis.

In some cases, your doctor may order additional tests, such as X-rays or ultrasounds, to rule out other possible causes of your pain, such as fractures or carpal tunnel syndrome.


The good news is that De Quervain's tenosynovitis usually resolves with non-surgical treatment. Here are some common treatment options:

  • Rest: Avoiding activities that aggravate your symptoms is crucial for allowing the inflamed tendons to heal.
  • Splinting: Wearing a splint or brace for a few weeks can help immobilize your thumb and wrist, reducing inflammation and pain.
  • Ice therapy: Applying ice packs to the affected area for 15-20 minutes at a time, several times a day, can help reduce swelling and pain.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or naproxen can help manage pain and inflammation.
  • Corticosteroid injections: In some cases, your doctor may inject corticosteroids into the inflamed sheath to provide quick and targeted relief.
  • Physical therapy: Once the inflammation subsides, physical therapy exercises can help strengthen the muscles and tendons around your thumb and improve your range of motion.


Surgery is rarely necessary for De Quervain's tenosynovitis. However, if your symptoms are severe and persistent despite non-surgical treatment, your doctor may recommend surgery to release the pressure on the inflamed tendons.


Here are some tips to prevent De Quervain's tenosynovitis:

  • Take breaks: Avoid repetitive hand and wrist movements for extended periods. Take frequent breaks to stretch and rest your hands.
  • Use proper technique: Maintain good posture and proper hand and wrist position while performing activities that involve gripping or pinching.
  • Strengthen your muscles: Exercises to strengthen the muscles around your thumb and wrist can help prevent injuries.
  • Listen to your body: Pay attention to pain and stop any activity that causes discomfort.

Living with and Beyond De Quervain's Tenosynovitis

Coping with the Pain

While many cases of De Quervain's tenosynovitis resolve with treatment, living with the pain during flare-ups can be challenging. Here are some tips to cope:

  • Adapt your daily activities: Find alternative ways to perform everyday tasks that minimize thumb movement. Ask for help when needed, and don't be afraid to delegate chores.
  • Warmth and support: Applying heat therapy with warm compresses can help soothe your thumb and improve flexibility. Wrist wraps or compression gloves can also offer additional support.
  • Mind-body techniques: Stress can exacerbate pain. Practices like meditation, deep breathing exercises, and mindfulness can help manage stress and improve pain tolerance.
  • Stay positive: Remember that most cases of De Quervain's tenosynovitis improve with appropriate management. Maintaining a positive attitude and focusing on your progress can aid in the healing process.

Returning to Activities

As the pain subsides and your thumb heals, you can gradually reintroduce activities you enjoy. Here are some steps for a safe return:

  • Start slow: Begin with gentle exercises and gradually increase the intensity and duration as your pain allows.
  • Listen to your body: Pay attention to any pain or discomfort. Stop any activity that causes pain and resume later when the pain subsides.
  • Modification and adaptation: Consider modifying your technique or using assistive devices for activities that previously aggravated your thumb.
  • Warm-up and cool down: Before and after any activity, performing gentle stretches and warm-up exercises can help prevent further injury.

Preventing Recurrence

Once you've recovered from De Quervain's tenosynovitis, preventing its recurrence is key. Here are some tips:

  • Maintain good posture and technique: Remember the proper hand and wrist positions learned during physical therapy or from your doctor.
  • Take breaks and stretch: Continue the habit of taking breaks and stretching your hands and wrists throughout the day, especially during repetitive tasks.
  • Strengthening exercises: Regularly perform exercises to keep the muscles around your thumb and wrist strong and stable.
  • Listen to your body: Be mindful of your activity level and avoid activities that previously triggered pain. If pain returns, consult your doctor promptly.

Alternative Therapies

While not mainstream treatments, some alternative therapies may offer additional pain relief and support healing. These options can be explored under the guidance of your doctor and alongside conventional treatment:

  • Acupuncture: This traditional Chinese medicine practice uses thin needles inserted at specific points on the body to stimulate healing and relieve pain.
  • Massage therapy: Gentle massage can improve blood circulation and promote relaxation, aiding in pain management.
  • Ultrasound therapy: This therapy uses sound waves to reach deep tissues, potentially reducing inflammation and promoting healing.

Remember: De Quervain's tenosynovitis is a common condition that can be effectively managed with appropriate treatment and lifestyle adjustments. By staying informed, listening to your body, and seeking professional help when needed, you can overcome the pain and regain full use of your thumb.