Wrist tendonitis: the best treatments for relief

Increasingly intense pain, stiffness, muscle weakness, localized swelling in the wrist… It is undoubtedly a tendonitis of the wrist. Tendinitis or tendinopathy is characterized by inflammation of the tendon. In the case of tendonitis of the wrist, also called Quervain’s tendonitis, we speak of inflammation of the extensor digitorum brevis and abductor brevis tendons of the thumb. These tendons pass through a fibrous tunnel in contact with the radius and can be compressed there. Wrist tendonitis causes severe pain in the thumb and the radial edge of the wrist that can spread to the forearm.

This pathology owes its name to the Swiss surgeon Frédéric de Quervain. He first described tendonitis of the wrist in 1895. This condition can occur in adulthood. “The female predominance is clear and the age of onset is between 40 and 50 years”, indicates on its website the French Institute of Hand Surgery (IFCM). Wrist tendonitis can affect any individual. However, athletes who play tennis or badminton and workers whose activity requires significant strain on the wrists are more likely to develop this pathology.

Wrist tendonitis: what are the causes?

While tendinitis can sometimes be caused by disease or medication, its origin is most often mechanical. In the case of Quervain’s tendonitis, inflammation of the tendons is caused by prolonged poor posture, sudden movement or the repetition of intensive activity over time. Certain professions can promote tendonitis: a waiter who holds his tray, an employee who taps on his computer all day or a gardener who uses pruning shears, for example. There is a more specific case: tendonitis caused by his phone. Indeed, writing a message requires the fingers and wrists.

Wrist tendonitis: rest to treat Quervain’s tendonitis

When wrist tendonitis occurs, you should rest your wrist and thumb and stop the activity responsible for the inflammation for a few days, or even weeks. During this first phase, the patient can wear a splint so that the wrist is immobilized and the tendon at rest. When the symptoms of tendinitis disappear, a gradual return to activity may be considered.

Tendinitis de Quervain: a medical treatment

During the acute phase, the patient may experience more and more severe pain. In this case, the doctor may prescribe analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs orally and locally to alleviate the pain in the wrist. If the drugs are not sufficient and the pain persists, the practitioner can administer local infiltrations of cortisone near the painful tendon in order to fight against the inflammation.

Wrist tendonitis: cryotherapy to relieve Quervain’s tendonitis

Another treatment: treat Quervain’s tendinitis with cryotherapy, namely cold. Cold is recommended in case of inflammation because this low temperature has an immediate analgesic and anesthetic action. To alleviate the pain of tendonitis, it is advisable to place a gel pack or a bag of frozen peas on the wrist for about 15 minutes each day.

Physical therapy to treat tendonitis of the wrist

If the tendonitis persists, the patient may resort to physiotherapy. The specialist will be able to reduce the inflammation using different techniques, such as massaging the muscles around the tendon or stretching to promote healing and prevent recurrence.

Surgical treatment to treat Quervain’s tendonitis

Although the surgical intervention is exceptional, it is proposed for the forms resistant to medical treatment or during painful recurrence. Surgical treatment can also be offered straight away for major forms with significant swelling.

The operation is performed under locoregional anesthesia. It consists of freeing and protecting the nerve branches responsible for thumb tenderness, removing inflammation and checking that the tendons slide correctly through an incision at the outer edge of the wrist. “The definitive cure is only obtained in 3 months. The return to work must be gradual and at best at a suitable post to avoid a recurrence which is always possible”, specifies on its website the French Institute of Hand Surgery (IFCM).

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