Patient Guide: De Quervain Syndrome (‘Mommy Thumb’)By: Lindsay Davey, MScPT, MSc, CDT
June 6, 2014
Editors: Ryan Davey, PhD and Lindsay Davey, MScPT, MSc, CDT
De Quervain Syndrome / Tenosynovitis is a painful inflammation of the tendons at the thumb-side of the wrist, caused by a repetitive strain or overuse of the wrist or thumb.
De Quervain Syndrome is commonly seen in new mothers (hence the name ‘Mommy Thumb’) as a result of the repetitive and sustained splaying of the thumb away from the hand when picking up or holding a baby. In addition, there are a variety of other tasks and activities that can lead to the development of De Quervain Syndrome.
Risk factors for developing De Quervain Syndrome:
In addition to the demands on new mothers, the following activities can cause or aggravate the syndrome:
- Playing music
- Computer use
Symptoms of De Quervain Syndrome:
- Pain and/or swelling at the base of the thumb.
- Difficulty moving the thumb into a splayed position, or pain with grasping or pinching motions.
- A catching sensation with certain thumb or wrist movements, as the inflamed tendons attempt to slide along the wrist.
Treatment of De Quervain Syndrome:
- Avoid the offending activity.
- If you can’t avoid it completely, try switching to your healthy hand. If you are a mom, try using your good hand to hold your baby, or switching hands more frequently. But beware, it is not uncommon to develop inflammation in both hands!
- Ice, rest, and anti-inflammatories.
- Seek physiotherapy treatment.
Physiotherapy Treatment of De Quervain Syndrome:
- Immobilizing the thumb and/or wrist may be necessary (via taping or a splint) to ensure rest of the tendons.
- Acupuncture or other modalities to help decrease the inflammation and increase the rate of tendon healing.
- Education on movements and positions to avoid / eliminate the repetitive strain
- Excercises to strengthen the wrist and thumb to speed return to function and to avoid repeat occurrences.