A Pain in the Thumb!

Written by Janelle Valore

In 1895, a Swiss surgeon, Fritz De Quervain, described a condition involving tendon entrapment affecting the thumb and wrist. Named after Dr. De Quervain, De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is a common and painful condition that affects the tendons that run in a tunnel from your thumb down through your wrist. While the cause of De Quervain tenosynovitis is uncertain, repetitive action and overuse of your thumb and wrist can lead to irritation and inflammation of the tendons, causing significant pain.

De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is prevalent in about .05% and 1.3% of women, with the highest risk among middle-aged females; therefore, De Quervain’s tenosynovitis was coined ‘Mommy Wrist,’ because it mostly affects new mothers who overuse their wrist and thumb to hold and lift their children. Although middle-aged females have a higher risk of developing De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, it can also affect individuals who fly fish, golf, play video games, knit, text, and use computer keyboards, especially with the increased demands of corporate and professional occupations.

Symptoms of De Quervain’s tenosynovitis include pain and tenderness at the base of the thumb, and pain when you rotate your wrist, grasp things or make a fist. Some patients will suffer from swelling and cysts at the base of the thumb. Most times, relief from symptoms can be achieved by using over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, resting the hand, a thumb spica – a brace that stabilizes your thumb – and wrist or steroid/cortisone injections.

If the foregoing treatments fail to improve symptoms, surgery may be an option.