De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis (Mommy’s Wrist)

de quervain's tendinitis

De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis

Mommy’s Wrist… Is that really a thing? Mom, mom, mommy, mama, mommy. One word is often all that it takes for our attention to leave whatever we are doing and tend to our children. No matter if you are a mom, grandma, babysitter, sister, aunt, great-grandma, dad, grandpa, etc. so often the position that we place our hands and wrists in to pick up our children leaves those same hands and wrists in a very vulnerable position for injury, specifically De Quervain’s.

What is De Quervain’s?  


De Quervain’s (dih-kwer-VAINS) tenosynovitis or tendinitis or “Mommy’s wrist” is a condition that causes pain and tenderness at the thumb side of the wrist, at the base of the thumb and forearm. De Quervain’s was given its nickname due to the common 

occurrence in those who are caregivers of young children. De Quervain’s tendinitis causes pain on the thumb side of the wrist and is made worse by movement or use of the thumb. This pain can make opening a door or turning a doorknob, lifting children, and opening a jar extremely difficult.  

Symptoms arise when there is irritation of the tendons that extend or lift the thumb and the sheath that surrounds them. The Abductor Pollicus Long (APL) and Extensor Pollicus Brevis (EPB) tendons become swollen, painful and irritated. The area can be painful to touch, lifting, gripping or pinching often causes excruciating pain and occasionally there may be a small bump or cyst like formation near the base of the thumb. 

What causes De Quervain’s? Who gets it?

The cause of De Quervain’s is usually unknown, but can be brought on by starting a new and often repetitive motion based activity. Risk factors can include:

  • Overuse of the hands.
  • Excessive use of thumbs from texting and gaming.
  • Being female (women are 8 to 10 times more likely to develop this condition than men).
  • Pregnancy.
  • Using the hand or arm in a position that feels unnatural.
  • Participation in sports that stress the hand and wrist, like golf and tennis.
  • Age greater than 40 years.
  • Race; members of the black community may be more likely to experience this problem.

Yes, my wrist and thumb hurt – now what? 

Well – here is some good news! For most people De Quervain’s does improve with time and a little TLC! Therefore, non-surgical treatment is often your first line of treatment which is aimed at decreasing pain and improving function. The first step is scheduling a free injury screening with an Axes Hand Therapist. Hand therapy treatment options can include: 

  • We can teach gentle stretching exercises as well as utilize modalities that can help decrease your pain.  
  • We can also fabricate custom thermoplastic splints tailored just for you and your hand/thumb!   
  • Your hand therapist can also educate you on how to eliminate and/or avoid those painful, provocative movements.   
  • For all those moms reading this, consider scooping the baby instead of lifting with your hand under the armpits.  
  • Resting the hand/wrist and avoiding repetitive thumb motion.  

Your Axes Hand Therapist will also perform other tests to rule out any underlying conditions that may mimic De Quervain’s symptoms. If symptoms do not respond to conservative treatment, then evaluation by a hand surgeon may be required for further treatment options. Fear not – we will help guide you every step of the way.

If any of these signs, symptoms, or limitations sound familiar to you – we encourage you to have your condition evaluated by a Certified Hand Therapist at one of our Greater St. Louis area locations offering hand therapy services. We understand the physical and emotional toll that accompanies these injuries.

For more information and to customize a home exercise program, contact an Axes Hand Therapist.

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