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De Quervain tenosynovitis is an inflammation of tissue at the base of the thumb. Strong fibers called tendons lead into the thumb. The tendons can become irritated. This can cause pain and swelling.
Tendons connect muscles in your wrist and forearm to the bones in your thumb. The tendons are covered by a protective sheath. This sheath is lined with tissue called synovium. This produces a fluid that lets the tendons slide easily when you move your thumb. If the tendons are irritated or injured, they become inflamed.
When the tendons are inflamed, they cause the lining of the tendon sheath to swell and thicken. Or the tendon sheath itself may thicken. Then the sheath pinches the tendons. They can no longer slide easily inside the sheath, and straightening your thumb and wrist may become painful.
Making the same wrist motion over and over can irritate the tendons. For example, opening jar lids or grasping a tool. Picking up a child under the arms can cause tendon irritation. So can an injury to the thumb side of the wrist.
After the tendons heal, you will need to regain strength and movement in your thumb. Your doctor may give you exercises. Or you may be referred to a therapist who can help you. Follow your doctor’s directions. They will help you get back to your normal activities.