De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis: What is it and what can be done about it?

Invigorate Health and Performance, De Quervains Tenosynovitis

Tennis players, golfers, gardeners, heavy lifters and even recent mothers are just a few that can develop De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis. This is a painful condition which can be felt on the side of your wrist where your thumb is located. The exact cause of De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis is not fully understood, however it is understood to occur repetitive hand and wrist movements.


  • Pain and swelling near the base of your thumb
  • Sticking sensation when moving your thumb
  • Difficulty moving your thumb and wrist when attempting to grasp or pinch objects
  • Pain can radiate into your forearm or down towards the tip of your thumb

How does De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis develop?

This condition is caused by overloading of the tendons of the wrist and thumb. Repetitive movements are known to irritate the tendon sheath which can lead to swelling. The tendon sheath which covers the tendons then thickens causing a restriction in movement.

It is unclear why people develop De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis, however it is common amongst those who play racquet sports, gamers, gardeners and people who control heavy machinery. People between the ages of 30 and 50 are most susceptible while women account for 80% of cases.

Treatment for De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis

The first step in treating De Quervains Tenosynovitis is to ease the inflammation and pain. Pain relief and anti-inflammatories can play a role along with a splint to mobilise the wrist and thumb. The splint acts to keep the area still and decrease aggravating movements that can cause flare-ups. You may be need to wear the splint for 24hrs a day for up to 6 weeks.

Physiotherapy can also play an important role in the recovery phase. Physiotherapists can incorporate numerous treatment techniques to assist with healing. Soft tissue release, dry needling and taping can all help to reduce swelling and pain and improve movement. Exercise prescription is the most important factor however. Remember, this is an overload injury, therefore we need to train the tendons to handle the necessary load correctly. This is done with a gradual progression of exercises ensuring minimal pain and discomfort in order to achieve the best results.

If you’ve been experiencing pain in your wrist/thumb for some time and have not been able to shake it off, don’t wait and let it get worse. Come in for an assessment and have our physios prescribe a treatment plan to get you pain free and back doing what you love.

Need more information? Check out our e-book on this condition HERE.

Written by Nicholas Dimos (Physiotherapist)