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Common Injuries – DeQuervains Tenosynovitis

The problem

  • DeQuervain’s Tenosynovitis is a painful condition caused by inflammation of two of the thumb’s tendon sheaths near the wrist
  • DeQuervain’s Tenosynovitis may develop as a result of repetitive or forceful hand and wrist movements, especially grasping, lifting, and turning. Any of these movements will likely cause some discomfort when the tendons are inflamed

Interesting facts

  • DeQuervain’s Tenosynovitis is the most common condition involving tendon sheath swelling.
  • Usually DeQuervain’s Tenosynovitis is an overuse injury in individuals whose occupations or hobbies involve repetitive motions. It can also result from direct trauma or inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis
  • DeQuervain’s Tenosynovitis occurs most frequently in individuals aged 30-50 and is more common in women than in men

What you can expect/look out for

  • Pain and swelling near the base of the thumb
  • A popping sensation may occur when the thumb is flexed across the palm
  • Difficulty moving the hand and wrist when performing activities involving grasping or pinching
  • If the condition continues without treatment, pain may progress into the thumb or up the forearm

Hints for self-management

  • Rest – avoid repetitive and aggravating movements. A splint may also help ensure a neutral position is maintained
  • Ice the affected area
  • Anti-inflammatory medications can help reduce the inflammatory response

Management options

  • A corticosteroid injection to the area is often used to reduce pain and inflammation
  • Physiotherapy to guide gradual return to normal activities and address any underlying biomechanical/ergonomic issues that may have contributed to the development of the condition
  • In more severe cases, surgery designed to relieve the pressure in the tendon sheath may need to be considered

More information

  • The extensor pollicis brevis and abductor pollicis longus muscles are involved in thumb movements and play an important role in grasping objects
  • These two tendons share a common tendon sheath, and normally glide smoothly through a tunnel that connects them to the base of the thumb. If this common sheath becomes inflamed it can cause impingement and affects both tendons


At Sydney Sports and Orthopaedic Physiotherapy our highly qualified physiotherapists specialise in the assessment, treatment and prevention of neuromusculoskeletal injuries.



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This handout was prepared by Sydney Sports and Orthopaedic Physiotherapy and is intended as a general information service. Please note that the information provided is not intended as a substitute for advice from a registered physician or healthcare professional. If symptoms persist, please consult your doctor.

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