What is De Quervain’s Tendinitis?

The hand and wrist are complex structures, and when the tendons, joints or muscles are affected, your activity level and quality of life can be compromised. Our hand surgeons offer care for a variety of hand and wrist conditions, including De Quervain’s tendinitis.

What is De Quervain’s Tendinitis?

De Quervain’s tendinitis is a common condition that primarily affects the wrist and thumb. “When a patient is suffering from De Quervain’s, they experience pain and discomfort where two tendons run from the back of the thumb to the side of the wrist, particularly when gripping an object or moving their thumb,” says Dr. Douglas Musgrave.

What Causes De Quervain’s Tendinitis?

Typically, this condition develops when the tendons in the wrist become strained and inflamed (often from chronic overuse). While there is not one definitive cause, the condition may be the result of:

  • Overuse of the hand or thumb
  • Rapid movement of the hand or thumb
  • Force placed on the hand or direct injury to the wrist
  • Hand being placed in an unnatural position for a prolonged period of time
  • Inflammatory arthritis

Who is at Risk?

De Quervain’s can occur in people of all ages, particularly if they are engaging in activities that require the forms of movement listed above. Those between 30-50 years of age are typically at higher risk. Gardening, lifting or prolonged holding of children, golf, tennis or other racket sports, and jobs that involve excessive use of the thumb and wrist may place you at higher risk and contribute to the development of De Quervain’s tendinitis.

What are the Symptoms?

Pain may develop gradually or come on suddenly, and worsens over time. Repetitive use of the wrist and thumb cause the tendons to thicken, making it difficult for them slide naturally through the extensor tunnel, resulting in:

  • Pain and sensitivity in the wrist
  • Difficulty extending the thumb
  • Difficulty grasping or pinching
  • Pain near the base of the thumb
  • Catching, locking or snapping sensation

What Treatment is Available?

If you’re experiencing the symptoms above, it is best to rest your thumb and seek treatment from a physician thereafter. When De Quervain’s tendinitis is left untreated, the mobility of your wrist and thumb can be significantly hindered.

“Initially, one of our hand specialists may recommend splinting and reduced activity. Another common treatment to reduce pain and swelling is cortisone injection. Depending on the severity of the condition, or if symptoms do not improve, surgery may be necessary,” says Dr. Douglas Musgrave.

Our hand specialists will explain your condition and treatment options, and then work with you to determine a personalized treatment plan. All of our hand surgeon partners have completed a hand surgery fellowship, specializing in hand and microvascular surgery. Additionally, all of our eligible hand surgeons have a CAQ (Certificate of Added Qualification) in hand surgery and are active members of the Hand Society.


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De Quervain’s Tendinitis Resources

National Library of Medicine – National Institute of Health – De Quervain Tendinitis

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons – De Quervain’s Tendinosis

Move Forward PT – De Quervain’s Tendinitis