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De Quervain's Tenosynovitis

DeQuervainsDe Quervain's Tenosynovitis is inflammation of the synovium or sheath that surrounds two tendons in the wrist which attach to the base of the thumb.

Symptoms of De Quervain's tenosynovitis

Symptoms include pain and tenderness on the thumb side of the wrist where the tendons pass through a narrow tunnel and attach to the base of the thumb. Crepitus or a creaking sensation may be felt when moving the wrist. Finkelstein's test is used to help diagnose De Quervain's tenosynovitis. The thumb is placed in the palm of the hand and the wrist moved sideways towards the little pinky finger side to stretch the tendons. If pain is felt the test is positive.

De Quervain's explained

The tendons of the of the abductor pollicis longus and extensor pollicis longus muscles pass through a tunnel or tube in the wrist and attach at the base of the thumb. This tube or sheath surrounding the tendons can become inflamed preventing normal movement of the tendon and creating pain. Tenosynovitis is inflammation of the sheath that surrounds the tendon as opposed to inflammation of the actual tendon itself which is known as tendinitis or tendonitis.

It occurs more frequently in racket sports such as tennis, squash or badminton as well as canoeing and ten pin bowling. Any sport or work related activity which insvolves repetitive wrist flexion and extension or ulna and radial deviation (side to side movements) can bring on De Quervains tenosynovitis.

It also occurs in golfers (left thumb of a right handed golfer and vice versa). Tendon injuries such as this are often labeled with the umbrella term RSI (repetitive strain injury).

Treatment for De Quervain's tenosynovitis

Conservative treatment is usually very successful and consists or rest, ice, ultrasound and a stretching and strengthening program. Rest is important to allow healing and often a wrist splint can ensure rest and help prevent painful movement.

Applying ice or cold therapy can reduce pain and inflammation. Do not apply ice directly to the skin as ice burns may occur. Apply for up to 10 minutes every hour for the first day or so then as required. A doctor may prescribe anti inflammatory medication such as Ibuprofen. Ultrasound therapy applied to the tendons can also help reduce pain and inflammation and encourage the healing process. Ultrasound passes high frequency sound waves into the tissues vibrating the molecules resulting in a micro massage effect.

If conservative treatment fails then a cortisone injection may be given. This is usually successful in most cases, however in rare cases where both conservative treatment and cortisone injections have failed then surgery may be indicated. See surgery for De Quervain's tenosynovitis for more information and an interview with consultant wrist and hand surgeon Mr Elliot Sorene.

Once the pain has gone it may be necessary to do wrist and hand exercises to strengthen up the whole area in preparation for returning to sport in order to help prevent future injury.

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