DeQuervain’s Tenosynovitis is a type of tendonitis that afflicts the radial side (thumb side) of the wrist. Patients complain of pain in the radial area of the wrist whenever using the thumb or wrist. Repetitive overuse of the thumb or wrist during typing, using a computer mouse, text messaging, or even picking up a newborn child can lead to inflammation of the tendons at the base of the thumb.
Tendons which cross the wrist joint travel through tendon sheaths or tunnels. These tunnels exist for reasons of mechanical advantage. In DeQuervain’s Tenosynovitis, the two tendons that allow you to “open up” your thumb to grasp an object, such as a can of soda, share a common tunnel. As these tendons glide under the tunnel located at the radial side of the thumb, overuse can cause them to become inflamed and swollen. As they swell within the confines of the tendon compartment, this causes friction and pain.
Initial treatment may involve behavioral modification, splinting, physical therapy, and use of oral anti-inflammatories. Steroid injections can also be given, to act as concentrated dosages of anti-inflammatory medicine administered right at the site of inflammation. If these means are not sufficient, DeQuervain’s Tenosynovitis can be treated with a straight-forward surgical release of the constricting tendon compartment, which resolves the problem permanently. This is a procedure done in an outpatient setting, with regional anesthesia where only the arm “goes asleep.”