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De Quervain’s Syndrome – A common cause of thumb and wrist pain

By September 3, 2014April 15th, 2019Physiotherapy, Pregnancy Pilates, Sports Physiotherapy

A common injury affecting the thumb side of the wrist is De Quervain’s Syndrome, also sometimes referred to as ‘Gamer’s Thumb’, ‘Mummy Thumb’ and ‘De Quervain’s Tendinosis’.

What is De Quervain’s?

De Quervain’s Syndrome is a condition affecting the tendons of the thumb that run along the wrist. These tendons assist in moving the thumb and wrist. More often, De Quervain’s Syndrome is an overuse injury due to increased forces through the tendon. This can lead to eventual thickening of the tendon and irritation that can cause pain around the thumb side of the wrist, specifically the radial styloid (see pic).

How does this occur?

De Quervain’s Syndrome can occur following repetitive loading of the thumb tendons. It is associated with pregnancy and motherhood, and is most common in middle-aged women. However it can also present following repetitive work of the wrist, involving grasping, pinching, squeezing or wringing. Some common scenarios include:

  • A new mother cradling her young baby (or a new grandmother doing the same!).
  • A gamer playing video games using a two hand controller and predominantly using thumb.
  • Tradesman regularly using tools such as a screwdriver.

What are the symptoms?

  • Pain around the radial styloid of the wrist
  • Swelling over the thumb side of the wrist
  • Occasionally a snapping or catching sensation when moving the thumb
  • Difficulty grasping and holding onto objects with the thumb

How can Physiotherapy help?

Physiotherapy can assist in identifying factors which may have contributed to De Quervain’s Syndrome. This may involve ergonomic changes or modifying tasks to reduce strain through the thumb tendons. Manual therapy, nerve glides and a splint is often prescribed to allow irritation around the wrist to settle. Physiotherapy can also aid in ruling out any other causes of wrist pain.

Come to our Sydney CBD Physio and Pilates clinic today and get your wrist pain assessed!

Bend + Mend

Bend + Mend has been providing Sydney’s CBD with Physiotherapy and Pilates services since 2003. We have 4 great locations in Martin Place, Barangaroo, Darling Park and Circular Quay, all with private rooms and specialised one-on-one care. We also have Sydney CBD’s best-loved Physios who have helped over 10,000 people recover from pain and injury.


  • Maureen Caldicott says:

    My doctor has today diagnosed me with De Quarvain’s tendonitis. Could this have been caused by holding a walking stick?

    • Hello Maureen,
      I am Kellie, one of the Bend + Mend Physio’s. Thank you for commenting.
      De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis can be caused by a number of factors, usually due to irritation of the tendons around the thumb (abductor pollicis longus and extensor pollicis brevis). Using a walking stick may be one of the causes if the walking stick was being gripped in a way that uses these tendons more than they are used to. For example, if the walking stick is gripped tightly, if it being used more than previously, and/or if it is positioned too high (which also may lead to neck and shoulder contributing factors). Each of these examples may lead to the tendons having to work harder than usual and therefore becoming overloaded and painful over time. However, there are many other reasons why people develop De Quervain’s Syndrome and it is always best to get this checked out by a qualified health professional such as your Physiotherapist, who can then also suggest ways in which you can avoid aggravating the pain and also offer you some treatment options.
      Please let me know if you have any other questions or we can help you further.
      Kind regards,

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