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February 18, 2018 2 min read

Symptoms of De Quervain's Syndrome

Thumb tendon pain can come on just like any other tendon in the body. There are several things that can make the thumb painful and often is associated with repetitive strain. Tendons in the body don't like sudden changes in speed (of movement) and load (effort or resistance to movement) - changing keyboards at work or unusual gripping and lifting are good examples. When these factors change the tendons have to be able to transfer the effort of the muscle to the bone which then creates the movement. If it's too much for the tendon it can become inflamed and painful. Over time, with repeated effort the pain can worsen and even though inflammation may reduce, the tendon can weaken under the repeated stress. 

Thumb Pain

The main culprit is the tendon Abductor Pollis Longus (that is Latin for the muscle with the long tendon that acts to take the thumb away from the hand). Frequently named De Quervains Syndrome after the surgeon who identified it, also known as gamer's thumb, blackberry thumb, washerwoman's thumb or texter's thumb. 

Common De Quervain's syndrome symptoms are: 

  • Pain on thumb side of the wrist, particularly when lifting the thumb away from the hand. 
  • Tenderness over the painful spot. 
  • Swelling at the same spot. 
  • Occasional clicking or snapping on the tendon in that area. 

Ways to Treat Thumb Pain 

  • Avoiding aggravating activities, changing how you do things. 
  • Wearing a support brace to alleviate the pressure on the thumb. 
  • A thumb splint would be recommended by your doctor or physiotherapist.

In more severe cases: 

Steroid injection into the tendon sheath, to surround the irritated tendon with anti-inflammatory. Reducing the pain to allow for strengthening rehabilitation and adequate rest in a splint.

Surgical decompression is an invasive method of management. A surgeon would aim to release the tendon sheath to relieve the pressure on the tendon. This aims to reduce the friction which contributes to pain and inflammation. Pain relief is usually rapid although some physiotherapy will be required to regain full strength and make sure the scar tissue doesn’t cause any problems.

In all cases splinting and rehabilitation with a physiotherapist are essential to promote a return to full strength and function. 


Thumb Support with Metal Bar - Immobilises and Aligns Thumb Correctly

 The thumb support is able to reinforce a weakened thumb in order to increase grip strength and reduce pain. It will keep the thumb in a natural resting position so the inflamed tendons can recover.


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