Inflamed and Swollen Tendons of the Thumb

De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is a condition that causes painful swelling in the tendons and tendon sheaths of your thumb. It was named after the surgeon who first described the condition.

In your hand, tendons join the muscles of your wrist and forearm to the bones in your thumb and fingers, which helps control movement and flexibility in your wrist, fingers, thumb and hand. The tendons are held in place by a slippery tunnel of tissue called a sheath that allows the tendons to slide easily during movement.

Injury, arthritis, overuse and repetitive motion can cause your thumb’s tendons and tendon sheaths to swell and become inflamed, resulting in de Quervain’s tenosynovitis.

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook


Pain, swelling and tenderness at the base of your thumb that gets worse with use are the main symptoms of de Quervain’s tenosynovitis.

Other symptoms include:

  • A snapping or catching sensation in our wrist when moving your thumb
  • Difficulty moving your thumb and making fine motor movements
  • Pain that travels from your thumb or wrist into your forearm
  • Pain that worsens with use


De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is typically diagnosed with the Finkelstein test, in which you make a closed fist and bend your wrist in an up and down motion. If the movement causes pain, you may have de Quervain’s tenosynovitis.


In most cases, de Quervain’s tenosynovitis is a temporary condition that responds well to treatment. However, if the condition is left untreated, it can permanently affect the function of your hand, thumb or wrist.

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