Tenosynovitis / De Quervain’s syndrome

Tenosynovitis is the most common tendon inflammation of the wrist, and is typically seen as a result of overstraining the tendons, such as in one-sided work. The pain flares up when the thumb is moved.

What is tenosynovitis?

The name “De Quervain’s syndrome” comes from the Swiss physician Fritz de Quervain, who first described the condition in 1895. The condition, which is harmless but can be extremely annoying, is commonly referred to as tenosynovitis. Tenosynovitis typically develops over a few weeks. Sufferers report increasing pain in the wrist area on the thumb side, which is most noticeable when the thumb is used, and that it is difficult to use the hand to grip and squeeze things.


What causes tenosynovitis?

Tenosynovitis is caused by the thumb tendons getting stuck together in the wrist region. The tendons swell and moving the thumb causes pain. Most often tenosynovitis is due to overstraining caused by one-sided repetitive movements, but it can also be due to pressure from, for example, a plaster cast.

How can tenosynovitis be treated?

In most cases, tenosynovitis will improve once the overstraining of the tendons stops. Most often, treatment possibilities will include relieving the strain, anti-inflammatory medication and physiotherapy. Rest and relieving the strain on the thumb and wrist for two to three weeks is – combined with a support brace – the most important treatment measure. When tenosynovitis occurs due to overstraining, you should try to avoid the activity/movement that caused the pain in the first place. Therefore, if it is caused by using a computer mouse, you should see whether you can change the way you use the mouse, or swap it for a more ergonomic mouse.

You may also need to do various exercises to stretch the affected area, which can help alleviate pain and discomfort.


Can tenosynovitis be avoided completely?

You can minimise the risk of developing tenosynovitis by being aware of the risk factors. Therefore, if you work in an office with a computer, it’s a good idea to become aware of how you sit in front of the computer – before you experience pain and discomfort.

Click here to see how you can achieve a better working position.

Note: If you develop symptoms of mouse arm that might be related to your job, you should speak to your employer or health and safety representative (HSR). If you work a lot with a computer, you can investigate the possibility of changing your work assignments or swapping your traditional computer mouse for an ergonomic mouse, as this may contribute to relieving your pain. If your symptoms persist, we advise you to contact your doctor.

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