What to do if you have De Quervain’s tenosynovitis

If you are experiencing pain or stiffness in the back of your thumb or wrist, you may find you have De Quervain’s tenosynovitis. This is particularly common for those who use their thumbs in repetitive activities or motions. This may often also appear throughout pregnancy when there is higher fluid retention and hormonal changes.

De Quervain’s tenosynovitis will cause the tendons to become inflamed, particularly the two tendons in the thumb. If you have experienced pain for a long period of time, you may wish to seek treatment. This procedure is known as De Quervain’s release.

If you have stopped using your wrist for your regular activities, this is a good sign that you may be suffering from De Quervain’s tenosynovitis.

What should I do if I think I have De Quervain’s tenosynovitis? 


You will need to schedule an appointment with your GP, who may be able to diagnose you or refer you for further testing. It is a good idea to think about the activities you normally undertake but are unable to do so now as it is too much strain on your wrist or thumb.

If you do have De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, you may wish to undertake De Quervain’s release.

What treatment can I have?


There are several steps involved in De Quervain’s release. The recommended treatment will depend on the level of pain you have experienced.

Once diagnosed, the first step is to completely rest the wrist. This will include avoiding any activities that will make your wrist worse. You may also be given non-steroidal and anti-inflammatory medication to help alleviate any pain and swelling.

If rest and medication do not work, the next step is to try steroid injections. These will be injected into the area of the wrist which is affected by De Quervain’s tenosynovitis. The steroid injections will take a few days to become effective. However, after this point, the effect of the injections can last for two or more months.

If the steroid injections do not work, you can undergo surgery. Surgery for De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is considered a day case, so you will not be required to stay overnight in a hospital. The surgeon will make a small incision in which the tendon sheath will be cut. This will free the tendons which have been affected.

This procedure will require either local or regional anaesthetic.

What is the recovery from surgery like?


You will be able to return the same day as the procedure. Following the procedure, your hand will be wrapped in a bandage. For the first three days after the surgery, you will have to keep your hand elevated – make sure this is around the level of your heart. You can keep this elevated with pillows or by wearing a sling.

You may feel some pain and discomfort after the procedure, however, your surgeon will be able to recommend appropriate pain medication for you to take.

During your recovery period, it is recommended that you avoid driving until you feel it is safe to do so.

Are there any side effects?


Every surgery comes with potential side effects and risks. Rare risks that may occur because of De Quervain’s release include:

  • Bleeding
  • Scarring
  • Infection
  • Stiffness
  • Nerve damage
  • Complex regional pain syndrome
  • Recurrence

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