DeQuervains tendonitis is a repetitive strain injury of the thumb tendons as they cross the radial aspect of the wrist (outside). These tendons are the extensor pollicis brevis and abductor pollicis longus. Both of these tendons run through a sheath which becomes inflammed and hence causes pain. Occupations that involve repeated gripping and lifting can cause this condition. It is also common in new Mothers, due to repeated lifting of their babies.
image taken from www.ericksonhandsurgery.com 29/1/15
DeQuervains tendonitis is characterised by pain over the radial styoid (bump on the outside of the wrist) the outside of the wrist. There may be associated swelling over the long thumb tendons. Severe cases can result in crepitus, where the tendon “grinds” as it passes through the swollen sheath. Making a fist by holding onto the thumb combined with tilting the wrist towards the fingers is often the defining sign that indicates DeQuervains.
Treatment consists of resting the thumb and rest from repetitive loading in a brace for up to 3-4 weeks. This allows the inflammation and swelling to settle. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories can be helpful. Your physiotherapist will educate you on correct lifting techniques to offload the tendons. Once normal range of motion has returned strengthening exercises will be important to regain full strength in the wrist and thumb tendons and muscles.
All physica staff are trained in diagnosing DeQuervains tendonitis and are experienced in the prescription of wrist braces and splints.