What is De Quervain's Syndrome?

27 July 2017  |  Alex

Have you been using your phone and suddenly found that your thumb joint hurts? Maybe you were trying to use something as everyday as a pair of scissors when the pain struck? In both of these cases, the symptoms point to one culprit: De Quervain's Syndrome. Though it might have a foreboding name, De Quervain Syndrome is actually a fairly common problem and while it is painful, it can be treated.

What is De Quervain's?

Named after the Swiss surgeon Fritz de Quervain (who is also credited with discovering De Quervain's Thyroiditis, an unrelated condition), De Quervain's is actually a form of tenosynovitis. Tenosynovitis is a condition where tendons and the synovial sheaths through which the tendon's run start to thicken.

De Quervain's is known by a variety of different colloquial and scientific names, including the following:

  • BlackBerry thumb
  • Texting thumb
  • Gamer's thumb
  • Washerwoman's sprain
  • Radial styloid tenosynovitis
  • De Quervain's disease
  • De Quervain's tenosynovitis
  • De Quervain's stenosing tenosynovitis
  • Mother's wrist

How Do I Know if I Have De Quervain's Syndrome?

There are a number of telltale signs that are associated with De Quervain's, the chief among them being a pain when extending or "lifting" the thumb. Think of using a pair of scissors – the movement of the thumb when opening the scissors is the movement likely to cause pain to sufferers of De Quervain's.

De Quervain's Can cause pain when using scissors
De Quervain's causes pain when lifting the thumb

Other symptoms include:

  • Spasms
  • Tenderness
  • An occasional burning sensation in the hand
  • Swelling over the thumb side of the wrist

The onset of De Quervain's is often gradual, with pain worsening over time. It is important to ensure that you are diagnosed by a medical professional, as many of the same symptoms can be present due to other conditions, such as osteoarthritis or Wartenberg's syndrome.

Causes of De Quervain's Syndrome

While there are many theories about what contributes to De Quervain's, there are currently no known causes. There has been evidence that certain occupational hazards may cause the condition, including repeated twisting of the wrist, or repeated pinching, pulling, grasping, and pushing motions. This evidence is, however, debated by medical professionals and no clear consensus exists.

Women are more commonly affected by De Quervain's and the syndrome often occurs during or after pregnancy. Other factors that are believed to contribute to tenosynovitis include hormonal changes, fluid retention and lifting.

Treatment Options

In most situations, corticosteroid injections are used to treat De Quervain's Syndrome. Studies have shown that these injections seem to be an effective form of managing the condition in 50% of cases. For patients that do not respond positively to injections, surgery is an option and works in the majority of cases.

While medical solutions are advised when suffering from De Quervain's, wrist supports can be used alongside treatment to immobilise the thumb, which limits discomfort day-to-day. The use of a support or brace is especially recommended in situations where a patient may be waiting for a long period in order to undergo surgery. In addition to a suitable support, paracetamol may be used to reduce inflammation (please consult a medical professional if you are unsure about the suitability of taking paracetamol).

De Quervain's Syndrome at Wrist Supports

Now you know a little more about De Quervain's you might wonder where we fit in. At Wrist Supports, we have expertly selected products that have been designed to aid sufferers of De Quervain's Tenosynovitis. Whether you're looking for a brace for use around the home or office, or something that will allow you to play sports comfortably, our extensive selection of braces will allow you to find what you need!

Please visit our wrist supports for De Quervain's Syndrome to find the perfect brace for your needs.


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