Do You Have de Quervain's Disease?

Do You Have de Quervain's Disease?

You don’t realize how much you depend on your hands until you have a physical injury that causes pain in your thumb or wrist when you try to open a jar or lift your two-year-old and put him in his car seat. What’s going on? 

Our board-certified orthopedic surgeons with Coastal Empire Orthopedics treat many painful hand conditions and injuries. You may have de Quervain’s disease

 What is de Quervain’s disease? 

You have tendons throughout your body, even in your hand. If you have inflamed, swollen tendons around your thumb or wrist, you may have de Quervain’s tendonitis. Moving your thumb and wrist becomes difficult, and daily tasks can become onerous, if not impossible. The condition is named after a Swiss physician, de Quervain, who studied it during the 19th century. 

How is de Quervain’s disease diagnosed?

When you talk to your Coastal Empire Orthopedics surgeon, you tell him you have pain around your thumb and wrist. The area may be swollen. You may have limited mobility in your thumb. 

Your doctor engages you in a couple of physical tests. He may place pressure on the inside of your thumb to see if you have pain there. 

He likely performs what’s known as the Finkelstein test next. You try to place your thumb across your palm. Then your doctor asks you to try to make a fist. This stretches the tendons around your thumb. If your thumb hurts, you likely have de Quervain’s disease. 

Why do I have de Quervain’s disease? 

Tendons slide through a channel and attach to bones in your thumb. If the tendons or the channel become inflamed, they can’t slide back and forth to permit movement. It’s difficult to move your thumb and wrist. Then you experience pain. 

Why is this happening? Two significant causes of de Quervain’s disease are overuse and inflammatory diseases such as arthritis.


Any activity that requires you to use your thumbs and wrist constantly may eventually lead to de Quervain’s disease, whether it’s a repetitive motion you use while working, playing a sport, gardening, or gaming. 

Teenagers are now being diagnosed with de Quervain’s disease. Playing mobile or console games requiring you to use your thumbs repeatedly can lead to the condition. One study of 500 students in a school in China, all of whom played mobile games, showed that half had de Quervain’s disease. Those who played for longer periods and more frequently were more at risk for it. Researchers suggested placing limits on the amount of time teenagers play these types of games. 

Women are at significantly greater risk than men for de Quervain’s disease — 8 to 10 times more likely. Lifting your new seven-to-10-pound baby many times daily may stretch the tendons around your thumb to the point that you develop the condition. 

Inflammatory conditions or trauma

Another cause of de Quervain’s disease is an inflammatory condition like osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. Sudden trauma to the thumb may also cause it. 

Effective treatment for de Quervain’s disease 

You’re likely already taking an over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug to calm the inflammation. You can ice the area as well to decrease inflammation. If you’re in severe pain, you may receive a steroid injection into the band of tissue around your tendon. 

Your doctor likely places you in a splint that keeps your wrist and thumb from moving. The splint stays on 24 hours per day for four to six weeks

When the time is right, your doctor prescribes physical therapy to strengthen the muscles in your wrist, hand, and arm. 

If conservative treatment doesn’t work, your physician recommends a simple surgery that releases the band of tissue around the tendon.

Call Coastal Empire Orthopedics or book an appointment online today if you’re experiencing pain in your hand or other musculoskeletal pain. We help you recover your quality of life. 

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