Thumb/Wrist Pain? It could be De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis.

de quervain's treatment

De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis is a painful condition which affects the thumb muscles including Abductor Pollicis Longus and Extensor Pollicis Brevis. A smaller muscle, called Abductor Pollicis Brevis can also be impacted. 


Why does it happen and who is at risk?

 Females are 4x more likely then men to develop Abductor Pollicis Brevis Pain. It is particularly prevalent in women who are in the post-natal phase. It is caused by a rapid increase in load on the thumb muscles and tendons. This over-load is usually caused from repetitive lifting of your new bub out of the cot and feeding positions with the wrist in a flexed position. It can also commonly occur in golfers, waiters and carpenters due to repetitive action of the wrist and thumb.

Tendons typically take an extended period to adapt to new loads and if we introduce new loads too quickly (same as when an Achilles tendon gets sore when you first start running training), they get a bit grumpy!


Signs and Symptoms of Abductor Pollicis Pain (De Quervain’s)

Symptoms will include swelling and local tenderness over the tendons on the thumb side of the wrist. You may experience a sudden sharp feeling when lifting your child or even lifting pots/pans etc. It can sometimes throb/ache for a while after aggravating it.

It won’t present with any nerve symptoms like pins and needles or numbness so if you do experience these symptoms, it is more likely there is a nerve impingement issue higher up in the elbow (posterior interosseous nerve) or in the neck.



It is diagnosed by conducting a simple test called the Finkelstein test. The tests involve bending your thumb across the palm of your hand and then bending your fingers over the thumb. The wrist is then bent toward your little finger, called ulnar deviation. If this reproduces the same pain you experience and is not painful on your other, unaffected hand, it is likely De Quervains syndrome.

A physiotherapist will also conduct some tests on the joints around the thumb and wrist and some nerve tests to exclude them as a source of pain.

De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis Treatment

  1. Splinting. Successful De Quervain’s treatment techniques include splinting/bracing of the wrist to off-load the thumb tendons, and then progressive weaning from the brace to reintroduce load in a monitored way. Splinting is normally started at night only, unless the symptoms are severe, in which case we recommend wearing it all day for at least 2 weeks initially. This simply gives the tendons a chance to rest and recover. 
  2. Gradual strengthening of the tendon is highly important as increasing the tendons tolerance to load is the fundamental component of rehab. As with any tendon strength program, load needs to be slowly introduced as a sudden increase in strength exercises can easily overload and aggravate the tendon. If bracing is left on for too long the tendon will become weaker and hence when you remove the brace the pain will come back.
  3. Despite common belief, a corticosteroid injection is not the first-line treatment. An injection should only be considered if bracing and physiotherapy has failed over a 6-week period OR if the symptoms are severe enough to warrant an early.

If you start treatment early, your symptoms should improve over the next 4-6 weeks. If your symptoms start during or after pregnancy your symptoms are likely to resolve once breast feeding has stopped.



  • ICE for pain relief

  • BRACE to off-load the tendon

  • STRENGTH to increase the tendons tolerance to load (likely the reason the thumb was sore in the first place).

  • CORTISONE injection only after 6 weeks if the above fails.

If you have any questions or if you think you may have De Quervain’s then please do not hesitate to get in touch with us here.


2 Easy Exercises for “Tennis Elbow” (Lateral Elbow Extensor Tendinopathy)

These 2 exercises are designed for people with quite severe lateral elbow pain that have difficulty gripping/lifting even light objects.

1) Isometric Wrist Extension with 1kg dumbbell.

Start with 3x10sec holds. If pain-free, progress to 3x30sec holds or increase the weight. If you can tolerate doing this every day for 1 week, progress to exercise no.2

2) Eccentric Wrist Extension

Do 3 sets of 15 reps with 1kg. If pain-free, add an extra 1kg. Complete this exercise every second day.

Tennis Elbow – Latest Evidence

What is Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow is defined as a cause of pain and tenderness in the outer part of the elbow (lateral epicondyle) where the tendons of the forearm muscles attach.

It is an overuse injury from repetitive or forceful/explosive movements involving eccentric motion and/or in which the wrist frequently deviates from a neutral position. This can be from training errors, inadequate equipment or poor environmental conditions.

Who can get Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow can affect anyone, however is more common in people between 30 and 60 years of age. It appears to be more severe and of longer duration in females. The most commonly affected arm is the dominant arm. It is commonly seen in office workers (repetitive typing) or manual labour workers (carpenters etc).

Signs and Symptoms of Tennis Elbow?

Pain and tenderness over the elbow bone (lateral epicondyle)

Pain with gripping, twisting, lifting.

Some cases may have nerve involvement – nerve pain and neck range of motion restrictions.

Do I need an X-ray or MRI?

A diagnosis can be made based on the history of the condition and a physical examination. X-rays may be used to help rule out other causes of elbow pain, such as arthritis. An ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan will show the degenerative changes or small tears in the tendon, but is rarely required.

Tennis Elbow Treatment

Evidence tells us that strength exercises are the most effective way of treating tennis elbow, with adjuncts of manual therapy (lateral elbow glides and C5 glides if radial nerve involvement. (L.Bisset et al 2015, Cleland et al 2013).

Strength exercises can not only help settle the pain, but also reduce the risk of the pain returning.


Each patient should be treated based on the history and the findings. Common treatments include:

  1. Load management: – Reducing or stopping the aggravating activity for a short period- Progressive loading and strengthening to improve load capacity
  2. Ergonomic advice (for example, the amount of time spent out of neutral wrist position is strongly associated with tennis elbow)
  3. Correction of biomechanics if required for return to sport.

Tips & Tricks:

  • Avoid the aggravating activities or positions that bring on your pain
  • Carry things with your palm up
  • Carry things close to the body
  • Load the tendon with exercises, but reduce manual labour
  • There should be no pain when performing exercises

Patients can also be reassured that some cases will improve without intervention and just information regarding modification of aggravating activities, ergonomic advice and reassurance that their condition will eventually settle.

Cortisone injections for tennis elbow… do they work?

Corticosteroid injections are NOT recommended. In a study by Vicenzino et al 2006, 198 participants got assigned to three groups (physiotherapy interventions, corticosteroid injections and ‘the wait and see approach’). The corticosteroid group had most reported recurrences at 72%.

Is there any evidence for any other treatment options?

Chiropractic manipulation

Can provide short term pain relief, however has no effect on long term outcome.


There is conflicting evidence for the effectiveness of bracing/taping compared with placebo or no treatment.

Acupuncture/dry needling

Conflicting evidence, but may be more effective than placebo and ultrasound at relieving pain and improving self-assessed treatment benefit in the short term.

Laser therapy

May be beneficial in short term compared with placebo, likely no difference between laser and other active interventions in the short or long term.


No more effective than placebo for pain relief or self-perceived global improvement in short term.

Shock wave therapy

Little or no benefit in reducing pain or improving function.

Platelet rich plasma injections

No benefit.

If you have any questions, or would like our help, please do not hesitate to get in touch at


1) Physiotherapy management of lateral epicondylalgia – Bisset, Vicenzino (2015)

•Hypoalgesic and sympathoexcitatory effects of mobilization with movement for lateral epicondylalgia – Paungmali, O’Leary, Souvlis, Vicenzino (2003)

2) Specific manipulative therapy treatment for chronic lateral epicondylalgia produces uniquely characteristic hypoalgesia – Vicenzino, Paungmali, Buratowski, Wright (2001)

•Manipulation of the wrist for management of lateral epicondylitis: A randomized pilot study – Struijs, Damen, Bakker, Blankevoort, Assendelft, Van Dijk (2003)

3) Incorporation of Manual Therapy Directed at the Cervicothoracic Spine in Patients with Lateral Epicondylalgia: A Pilot Clinical Trial – Cleland, Flynn, Palmer (2013)

4) A randomized controlled trial of eccentric vs. concentric graded exercise in chronic tennis elbow (lateral elbow tendinopathy) – Peterson, Butler, Eriksson, Svardsudd (2014)

5) Mobilisation with movement and exercise, corticosteroid injection, or wait and see for tennis elbow: randomised trial – Bisset, Beller, Jull, Brooks, Darnell, Vicenzino (2006)

6) Addition of isolated wrist extensor eccentric exercise to standard treatment for chronic lateral epicondylosis: A prospective randomized trial – Tyler, Thomas, Nicholas, Malachy, McHugh (2010)

7) Is tendon pathology a continuum? A pathology model to explain the clinical presentation of load-induced tendinopathy – Cook & Purdam (2009)


Top 4 Injury Prevention Exercises for Footballers (Video)

These exercises are designed to reduce the risk of suffering common footballing injuries.
The most common injuries, ranked in order are:
  1. Hamstring Tear
  2. Knee Ligament/Meniscus Injury
  3. Ankle Ligament Injury
  4. Groin Strain/Pain

To address the strength and control deficits that can increase the risk of these injuries, the following exercises should be completed at least twice a weak, at the END of a training session OR by themselves in a separate session.

  1. Nordic Hamstring Curl. Perform as slowly as possible. Do 3 sets of 8 reps.
  2. Copenhagen Adductor Exercise. Do 3 sets of 12 each leg.
  3. Lateral ankle/knee stability jumps. Do 3 sets of 8.
  4. Single leg Agility jumps over line. Do 3 sets of 20 each leg.

If you are interested in other, more in-depth information on injury prevention, then head over to our article from last year on the topic