De Quervain Tenosynovitis

De Quervain tenosynovitis is a condition that causes pain and swelling at the base of the thumb and the thumb side of the wrist. In de Quervain tenosynovitis, swelling and thickening of the soft tissues around the thumb tendons cause pain with common activities, particularly with picking up or grasping objects.

The University of Michigan hand surgery team specializes in the treatment of de Quervain tenosynovitis, from mild to severe. Our goal is to restore comfort and function as soon as possible with minimal impact on the patient’s quality of life.

Risk Factors for De Quervain Tenosynovitis

Although the majority of patients with de Quervain tenosynovitis are women between 30 and 50 years old, this condition can affect anyone at any age. There are several factors that can contribute to the swelling of the thumb tendons and increase the risk for developing de Quervain tenosynovitis:

  • Repetitive activities with thumb and wrist, such as wringing out clothes, hammering, skiing, knitting
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Chronic illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes
  • Pregnancy

Symptoms of De Quervain Tenosynovitis

Common signs and symptoms of de Quervain tenosynovitis include:

  • Wrist pain on the thumb side
  • Thumb and wrist pain with twisting or grasping
  • Swelling on the thumb side of the wrist
  • Crackling or popping sound with movement of thumb

Diagnosis of De Quervain Tenosynovitis

A thorough physical examination and discussion of the patient’s medical history, including current and past conditions, prior injuries and symptoms, will help diagnose de Quervain tenosynovitis.

Treatment of De Quervain Tenosynovitis

Treatment will depend on the severity of symptoms, which may be relieved without surgery. 

There are several non-surgical treatment options that may help relieve symptoms. These include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen
  • Brace wear to stabilize and provide support for the wrist and thumb
  • Cortisone injections to reduce pain and swelling
  • Limiting activities that cause pain and swelling

When symptoms are severe or do not improve, surgery may be the next step. The procedure involves dividing the tissues overlying the thumb tendons to allow them to glide better. 

Contact Us

If you are considering treatment for de Quervain tenosynovitis, the University of Michigan hand surgeons will guide you, from consultation to recovery, to the best treatments for your individual needs. Our hand surgeons have dual appointments in Orthopaedic and Plastic Surgery with a specialization in Hand. Patients may be seen in the Orthopaedic Clinic or the Plastic Surgery Clinic for treatment of hand conditions, or referred to Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation for non-surgical treatment.

Visit the Make an Appointment at the Comprehensive Hand Center page for contact information for both surgical and non-surgical treatment teams.