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De Quervain Syndrome

Many new parents suffer from chronic wrist pain caused by the awkward hand positions required to hold and care for an infant. This condition, called de Quervain syndrome (but known also by many other names – see list below), can cause severe pain that it hinders the simplest of daily tasks, such as bathing, feeding, or changing a newborn baby's diapers.

Other names for this condition

Many different medical and common names are used to describe De Quervain syndrome, including:

Medical name variants

  • de Quervain's disease
  • de Quervain's tendonitis or tendinitis
  • de Quervain's tendinopathy
  • de Quervain's tendinosis
  • de Quervain's tenosynovitis
  • radial styloid tenosynovitis
  • wrist tenosynovitis

Common name variants

  • designer's thumb
  • gamer's thumb
  • mommy thumb
  • mother's wrist
  • new mom’s syndrome
  • texter's thumb or texting thumb
 

What is de Quervain syndrome?

De Quervain syndrome is inflammation of the tendon that runs down the forearm, through the wrist and to the thumb.

Illustration of de Quervain syndrome

What causes de Quervain syndrome?

This injury is caused by repetitive strain on the tendon due to frequent, awkward positioning of the wrist and/or thumb. It can be brought on by repetition of many everyday activities, including:

  • computer keyboard use
  • fly fishing
  • golfing
  • hammering
  • knitting
  • lifting and holding babies
  • skiing
  • texting
 

Symptoms

The chief symptom is pain in the radial side (thumb side) of the wrist. This pain is usually noticed while forming a fist, grasping objects or turning the wrist, and it may radiate out to the thumb or the forearm.

Other signs and symptoms can include:

  • inflammation (swelling) or tenderness of the radial side of the wrist
  • popping or snapping sounds while moving the thumb

Treatment

Conservative, nonsurgical treatments are tried first. These can include:

  • reducing or modifying activities
  • wearing a forearm spica splint
  • NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)

If the above measures are not effective after several weeks, gluticorticoid injections may provide pain relief. Rarely, if pain persists after non-operative measures have been tried, wrist surgery may be required.

Related content

This article discusses and illustrates De Quervain’s syndrome and other hand injuries.

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