When you find your thumb hurting while moving it, it can be an early sign of first dorsal compartment tenosynovitis. The thumb is your only finger to reveal this disease. The painful condition affects the tendons on the thumb side of the wrist, near the base of the thumb and forearm.
Furthermore, if the condition isn’t treated, there may be progressive pain, limited range of wrist motion, and difficulty using the hand and wrist properly.
Other names of first dorsal compartment tenosynovitis
- Blackberry thumb
- Designer’s thumb
- De Quervain’s disease
- De Quervain’s syndrome
- De Quervain’s stenosing
- De Quervain’s tenosynovitis
- Gamer’s thumb
- Mommy’s thumb
- Mother’s wrist
- Radial styloid tenosynovitis
- Texting thumb
- Washerwoman’s sprain
History of De Quervain’s tenosynovitis
In 1895, Fritz De Quervain, a Swiss surgeon, saw patients with a pattern of thumb pain symptoms. He also had similar histories that might cause the pain. Moreover, he was the first person to explain the problem as one condition.
Nowadays, we know that the pain of De Quervain’s syndrome is relatively common. For instance, in the working population, it affects about 0.5% of males and 1.3% of females.
Causes of De Quervain’s tenosynovitis
The exact reasons for De Quervain’s disease aren’t known. However, here are some of the common causes that can lead to this disease:-
- Chronic overuse of your hand
- Doing activities that stress your hand, thumb, or wrist (such as gaming, grasping, pinching, typing, or wringing)
- Females are more prone to the disease
- History of inflammatory disease
- Jobs or hobbies that involve repetitive hand and wrist motion
- Injury to your wrist or tendons (scar tissue can restrict the movement of your tendons)
- Pregnancy or lifting children repeatedly
- People who are between the ages of 30–50.
Symptoms of De Quervain’s tenosynovitis
The first sign of the trouble is the soreness on the thumb side of the forearm, near your wrist. Here are some common symptoms of De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis:
- Tenderness, pain, or swelling at the wrist near the base of your thumb
- Difficulty when grasping things or pinching with the thumb
- The appearance of a fluid-filled cyst at the thumb side of your wrist
- Feeling pain when moving your wrist from side to side or twisting it
- Mild swelling, redness, or warmth at your wrist
- Pain, stiffness, or weakness with activities, including opening jars, writing, lifting, or hammering
- Catching or snapping feeling when moving your thumb
Treatment for De Quervain’s tenosynovitis
The goal of treating texting thumb is to reduce the pain and swelling, maintain normal joint function, and prevent the condition from returning. First here are surgical treatments. Surgery may be advised if your symptoms are severe or don’t improve. It helps in opening the thumb compartment to make more room for the irritated tendons. However, it doesn’t guarantee the accurate treatment of the disorder. Second, there are non-surgical treatments.
Here are some non-surgical texting thumb treatments:
- Anti-inflammatory medication. You can take it by mouth or can also inject into your tendon compartment. It is one of the best ways to reduce swelling and relieving pain.
- De Quervain’s wand. It’s effective in restoring movement of your thumb and can even delay or eliminate the need for surgery. It is very effective in the earlier stages of texting tenosynovitis.
- De Quervain’s tape. It is applied from the thumb to wrist for all-day wear. It secures your thumb in an extended position to provide comfort and reduce the pain caused by the disease.
- Gentle massage. You should massage your hands with adequate pressure through the external tissue of the deep-lying structures. It decreases swelling and reduces muscle spasms.
- Apply ice or heat. You can use a heating pad and apply it for 15 minutes every 4 to 6 hours. However, you shouldn’t leave the water bottle or heating pad on for more than 15 minutes.
- Occupational therapy. It will help you perform your daily activities while wearing a splint. In addition, it will ease the stress on your wrist and the symptoms of the blackberry thumb naturally.
Lifestyle changes to reduce De Quervain’s tenosynovitis
It is possible to prevent De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis. However, some risk factors can’t be controlled, such as age or gender.
Here are some lifestyle changes to reduce the symptoms of De Quervain’s tenosynovitis.
- You should reduce repetitive hand motions, including heavy grasping, rotating, and twisting wrist activities.
- Start with strengthening exercises when your wrist pain has settled to a controllable level.
- Take frequent breaks while doing repeated hand and thumb actions to control the symptoms of texting thumb accurately.
- Try to keep your wrist in a straight line with your arms, rather than bending it backward or forward.
When to see a doctor
- Consult your doctor immediately if you still have problems with pain or function and you have already tried.
- Apply cold compress to the affected area.
- Avoid using your affected thumb.
- Use anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen.
The bottom line
Untreated De Quervain’s disease will make it hard to use your hand and wrist properly. You can get recommendations from your family, friends, and professional healthcare experts. However, you need to be prepared to describe your symptoms in as much detail as possible during your first visit.
Robert Haynes did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health and well-being.
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