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DeQuervain’s Syndrome (Tendinitis of the Thumb Muscles)

What is DeQuervain’s Syndrome?

It is an irritation of the synovial membrane that surrounds the tendons of the muscles at the base of the wrist; these are responsible for movements of the thumb and wrist. DeQuervain’s syndrome   is a common overuse injury in individuals who perform movements involving the thumb and wrist, such as cooks, office workers, musicians, tennis players and even new parents who hold their baby in their arms.

Some of the early warning signs of the injury include pain when clenching the fist, holding an object, carrying a load and driving; the pain can prevent the individual from doing simple everyday activities, such as buttoning a shirt.

Causes

  • Activities that involve repetitive movements with the wrist and thumb, such as: using pliers, unwinding a cloth roll, writing, etc.;
  • Holding a young child, which put the wrist and thumb in an extended position;
  • Wrist fractures.

Incidence

Although this injury occurs most commonly in women and men 35 to 55 years of age, women are more susceptible, particularly during and after pregnancy, and at menopause.

Symptoms

  • Pain at the base of the thumb, on the outer face of the wrist; the pain can increase with movements involving the wrist and thumb, by clinching the fist or by performing gripping activities;
  • Swelling at the wrist and base of the thumb;
  • General decrease in function;
  • Decrease in the thumb’s range of motion (bending and extending);
  • Decrease in gripping strength;
  • A tingling sensation or numbness can also occur on the anterior part of the thumb and index.

Treatment

Medical:

  • Rest, as well as wearing a brace or even a cast (thumb area), for three to six weeks;
  • Anti-inflammatories;
  • In certain cases, cortisone infiltrations are indicated, to be combined with physiotherapy.

Physiotherapy:

  • Your physiotherapist will start by recommending that you stop all movements related to the injury, at least temporarily;
  • Analgesic modalities, such as: ultrasound, TENS, ice and laser;
  • Soft tissue massage and manual therapy;
  • Stretching exercises;
  • Strengthening exercises;
  • Stretching of the radial nerve.

Prognosis

If the injury is treated quickly, the prognosis is very good.  If the injury is neglected, however, it can worsen and eventually require surgery.

If you believe you may be suffering from DeQuervain’s syndrome, please contact us to make an appointment with one of our health professionals.

Remember: the faster you get treatment, the better your chances of success!

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