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Tendons are bands of connective tissue that attach bones to muscles. Tendonitis occurs when the muscles are over used leading to inflammation of the tendon. DeQuervain’s tendinitis occurs in the tendons on the thumb side of the wrist. When irritation of these tendons occurs their outer lining becomes inflamed leading to swelling. Because the tendons are encased in a connective tissue tunnel the swelling makes it difficult for the tendons to move.

Symptoms of deQuervain’s tendinitis

•    pain and tenderness on the thumb side of the wrist
•    pain can be of a gradual onset or sudden
•    pain may radiate from the wrist into the forearm
•    pain worsens with use of the wrist and thumb in activities such as grasping, gripping and twisting
•    there may be swelling on the thumb side of the wrist
•    in some cases there is a catching or snapping with thumb and wrist use
•    in some cases the nerve in the same area of the tendon may become irritated giving pins and needles or numbness

Diagnosis and treatment

Your physiotherapist will be able to diagnose and treat this condition. In the initial stage rest from aggravating activity is recommended. Your physiotherapist will be able to help in reducing pain and inflammation through the use of electrotherapeutic modalities and gentle soft tissue techniques. Once the initial inflammation has passed your therapist will assess and treat as appropriate any other contributing/predisposing factors. In some cases the condition does not resolve and surgery is required to release the connective tissue tunnel allowing more room for the tendons. This would probably be followed by physiotherapy to regain full function of the wrist and thumb.