This post, we’ll continue our series on repetitive stress work injuries older workers are prone to get after years on the job.
De Quervain Syndrome, also referred to as de Quervain’s tenosynovitis, is a painful condition that causes inflammation in the tendons attached to your lower thumbs and wrists. When these tendons become swollen, they begin to rub in the tight tunnel that they pass through connecting your hand to the upper part of your arm. The resulting irritation can cause pain in and around your lower thumb extending the length of your lower arm.
Symptoms That You May Be Suffering From de Quervain Syndrome
The symptoms can have a sudden onset or develop gradually over time resulting in increasing and limitations to your mobility. The pain can become more severe or mobility more difficult when utilizing your thumb for such motions as pinching and grasping. Continued movement of your thumb and wrist will cause the pain to increase. While adults between 30 and 50 are most likely to experience symptoms of the disorder, it can affect any age. You should be checked by a doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms.
- Pain occurring on the back of the thumb or directly on the connecting tendons
- Swelling or pain along the base of your thumb
- Pain and swelling along the side of your wrist
What Work-Related Tasks Can Bring On The Condition?
A diagnosis of de Quervain will require a doctor’s visit where they will apply pressure along the tendons in your hand to evoke a pain response. They will most likely perform the Finklestein test which involves movements to stretch your tendons to see a response. When completing your diagnosis, your physician is likely to ask if you perform any repetitive motions in relation to your job. Jobs that require repetitive motion movements whether great or small, weight bearing or not, can lead to inflammation of the tendons and resulting complications. Some of the repetitive motion tasks that could result in a diagnosis of de Quervain syndrome include:
- Repeated tasks requiring the use of your pincer grasps
- Typing of lengthy time spent on a computer
- Filing or handling items that require you to maintain a firm grip
- Repetitive pulling of levers or handles such as in machine operation
- Baggage handling or repetitive lifting of an object that requires thumb use or a grip motion
It is important to note that de Quervain syndrome is not limited to the related repetitive tasks above and motion that requires regular use of your hand, thumb, or a gripping position can also lead developing the condition.
Are There Steps You Can Take To Treat Or Lessen The Symptoms?
Most treatments for de Quervain are geared at lessening the pain or immobilization. Doctors can prescribe anti-inflammatories or even steroid treatments to alleviate the pain. While this can often help, it is best used in tandem with immobilization methods such as splinting. If the symptoms persist and you do not find relief, your doctor may move onto more progressive treatments such as physical therapy and even surgery to correct the conditions by loosening or relieving the stress on the tendon. During any treatment, doctors will often recommend resting the hand, limiting repetitive motion movements, and stopping any activity when pain sets in.
It is vital that you visit your doctor at the first sign of symptoms to help prepare you for the best possible outcome. De Quervain syndrome is not likely to go away without some form of treatment and in some cases can be debilitating leaving you having difficulties performing your duties. If you are unable to perform your job functions due to symptoms de Quervain syndrome, you may be able to seek temporary disability relief or worker’s compensation benefits to cover your treatment and allow you the time you need to recover without risking more damage.