De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is a condition in which inflammation in tendons in the thumb cause pain in the thumb and hand.

See Soft Tissues of the Wrist

The symptoms of De Quervain’s tenosynovitis may start suddenly (rare) or may come on gradually (more common).

Classic Symptoms and Signs of De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis

De Quervain’s tenosynovitis typically causes:

  • Pain and tenderness at the base of the thumb and/or on the side of the wrist closest to the thumb
  • Stiffness in the thumb
  • Pain that gets worse when moving the wrist, picking up an object, or making a fist
  • Pain that’s triggered by playing sports that involve extensive wrist motion, such as golf, tennis, or rowing
  • Swelling on the thumb-side of the wrist
  • Numbness in the thumb or index finger
  • A sensation of catching or popping when moving the thumb

See Carpal Tunnel Syndrome vs. Soft Tissue Inflammation

If De Quervain’s tenosynovitis continues without treatment, the pain may radiate further from the base of the thumb into the thumb, up the forearm, or both.


What Puts People at Risk for De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis

While De Quervain’s tenosynovitis can affect just about any adult, there are certain factors that can raise individual’s risk for the condition:

  • Being female
  • Being age 40 or older
  • Performing repetitive tasks that involve hand or wrist movement, often as part of a job, sport, or hobby
  • Caring for a child, since repeatedly lifting a baby puts strain on the thumbs (the condition is sometimes known as “mommy thumb” for this reason)
  • Previous wrist injury—scar tissue can impede tendon movement
  • Having a type of inflammatory arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis
  • Being pregnant—fluctuating hormone levels can make inflammation more likely

With the exception of pregnant women—whose cases of De Quervain’s tenosynovitis often resolve when they are no longer pregnant or breastfeeding—De Quervain’s tenosynovitis will not resolve on its own without treatment.

Those who have symptoms of the condition should consult a physician for a diagnosis and treatment.

Dr. Mike Starecki is an orthopedic surgeon at Resurgens Orthopaedics specializing in conditions of the hand, shoulder, and elbow.