De Quervain Tenosynovitis

(De Quervain Syndrome; De Quervain Disease; Washerwoman’s Sprain)

Pronounced: DEE-KUR-vains TEE-no-SIGH-no-VY-tis


De Quervain tenosynovitis is a painful irritation of the tendons that run from the wrist to the thumb. These tendons pass through a tunnel-like tissue at the wrist. It can put more pressure on the tendons and make them hard to move.

De Quervain Tenosynovitis

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The exact cause it not known. It may be due to injury, such as repetitive motion or a direct blow to the area.

Risk Factors

This problem is more common in women who are over 40 years of age. It is also more common during pregnancy and after childbirth.

Some activities may raise your risk, such as:

  • Sports, such as cross-country skiing
  • Repeatedly lifting a baby, young child, or pet
  • Certain jobs, such as those that involve using a hammer or similar tool


Problems may be:

  • Pain at the base of the thumb and sometimes along the forearm
  • Pain when using the hand and thumb, such as when grabbing or twisting items
  • Swelling or a fluid-filled cyst over the thumb side of the wrist
  • A snapping or catching feeling when moving the thumb


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on your hand and arm. You will be asked to move your fingers and wrists. This is all that is needed for diagnosis.


The goal of treatment is to ease pain and promote movement. This may be done with:

  • Limiting activities
  • A splint to help rest the area
  • Medicine to ease pain and swelling
  • Physical therapy and occupational therapy to improve function


Surgery may be done if other methods do not help. The surgery will open the tunnel so the tendons can move freely.


There are no guidelines to lower the risk of this problem.


American College of Sports Medicine
OrthoInfo—American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons


Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Physiotherapy Association


de Quervain syndrome. Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated October 2018. Accessed March 26, 2020.
de Quervian tendinitis (de Quervian tendinosis). Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated December 2013. Accessed March 26, 2020.
De Quervain’s tenosynovitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Updated May 14, 2019. Accessed March 26, 2020.
Goel R, Abzug JM. de Quervain's tenosynovitis: a review of the rehabilitative options. Hand (N Y). 2015 Mar;10(1):1-5.
Last reviewed February 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Teresa Briedwell, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS
Last Updated: 3/26/2020

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