Hand Inflammation: Could it be de Quervain’s Disease?

You’ve been noticing discomfort in your wrist and thumb whenever you use it. At first, it might have been a slight twinge, but now it’s reached the point that pouring a cup of coffee or peeling carrots for dinner is painful. What’s going on? It’s time to see a specialist. 

Our board-certified orthopedic surgeons at Coastal Empire Orthopedics specialize in orthopedic problems of the hand and sports medicine. They get to the root of your musculoskeletal pain and provide treatment that yields welcome relief. You may have a condition known as de Quervain’s tendinosis, also called de Quervain’s tenosynovitis. 

What is de Quervain’s syndrome? 

This syndrome, named after the Swiss physician who was the first to describe the condition, is an inflammation of your tendons and surrounding tissue at your wrist and the base of your thumb. These tendons enable your thumb to move outward from the rest of your fingers; you use them numerous times throughout the day when cooking, gardening, and performing other household tasks. 

If you have de Quervain’s syndrome, the outside area of your thumb moving down to the wrist line may be swollen. Your thumb and wrist hurt because the tendons there are inflamed. Those tendons attach muscles in that area to your bones. 

The tendons are encased in a tunnel of tissue. When they’re irritated, they can swell and constrict movement because they cannot move smoothly through the tunnel. You then experience pain when making a fist, grasping an object, or twisting the wrist.  

How did I get de Quervain’s syndrome? 

Activities that involve repetitive use of the thumb and wrist can result in de Quervain’s syndrome. Playing computer games is a common culprit; it places a lot of strain on your thumb. 

Any repetitive motion involving the tendons in your thumb and wrist can cause de Quervain’s: working on an assembly line or in a warehouse, or playing racquet sports are just a few examples. 

Interestingly, women are much more likely to suffer from de Quervain’s than men. Studies show that estrogen receptors are associated with the condition. 

What is the most effective treatment for de Quervain’s syndrome? 

The following are the range of treatments for the pain in your hand. 

Rest, ice, and medication 

Resting the hand is the first order of business. Stopping the painful movements gives your hand a chance to rest and recover. Applying an ice pack several times a day helps reduce swelling and pain as well. Temporary use of over-the-counter pain relievers can help. 

Steroid shot

If you’re in intense pain, your Coastal Empire Orthopedics physician gives you a cortisone shot that should begin to relieve your discomfort. 

Bracing the thumb and wrist 

Your doctor may provide you with a medical-grade splint to prevent excessive movement of your thumb and wrist while the tendons heal. You’ll wear the splint during the day and at night for a few weeks. 

Physical therapy 

Once the inflammation subsides, your physician shows you gentle exercises to do every day. These build strength in your hand, wrist, and arm muscles to protect you from further injury. 


Surgery is a last resort when the treatments above haven’t worked for you. Most cases of de Quervain’s syndrome resolve without surgery, especially if you receive early treatment. The procedure is classified as minor surgery. Your board-certified surgeon opens the thin sheath of material covering the tendons, thereby releasing them to move when you use your hand. 

For hand pain or other musculoskeletal pain, call Coastal Empire Orthopedics or book an appointment online for expert, compassionate treatment that puts you on the path to recovery.

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