Wrist Tendonitis. What it is and how you treat it?

By Dr Nick O’Connor (Osteopath)

What is it?

Do you suffer from nagging pain through the base of your thumb and through your wrist?  Finding that your grip has weakened for no apparent reason? Losing control of pens/mouse at work?  You may be suffering from a very common musculoskeletal condition known as wrist tendonitis, which simply put is ‘inflammation of the tendon in your wrist’.   The tendon is the thick fibrous tissue which connects your muscles to the bones. This injury can come in many forms or names, some of the more common ones are:  De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis, Wrist Tendinopathy/Tendonitis.  

Why does it occur?

Unfortunately there is not one answer for this, like many musculoskeletal injuries there are a number of factors together which eventually result in the injury.  Commonly with this type of injury there are a number of risk factors to take into consideration, overloading, repetitive work, overuse, wrong training, flexibility, age and muscle weakening/imbalance.

Typically this injury is seen in patients whose work involves a lot of repetitive movements of the wrist or hand, this is accompanied often with a number of the risk factors mentioned above.  Some examples of jobs this injury may occur in are: Hairdressers, Gymnasts, Gym warriors, factory workers, IT workers, tradesmen and many more.

Muscles and tendons do not like being overloaded or overused. Deriving from this, the tendon can become inflamed but remain pain free, once it gets to the threshold over a period of time it will begin to present with pain, which in turn if it is not managed will result in increased pain which can be potentially unrelenting in nature.

How do we treat it?

Treatment for wrist tendonitis is multifaceted, with many patients utilising a number of adjuncts to accelerate their recovery.  Manual therapy such as soft tissue, joint mobilisation and dry needling may be used to reduce the initial symptoms. Secondary to this, you will receive specific rehabilitation exercises and stretches to help offload the wrist.  If required you may need to also look at taping or bracing of the wrist, especially if your role does not allow you to completely offload, this is only a temporary fix as completing the rehabilitation exercises will be key.  

A management plan will be developed throughout your initial consultation which will revolve around what the practitioner is going to do for you during the consultation, but also what you will be doing at home to help manage the symptoms and also reduce this reoccurring in the future.  

Limiting the aggravating factors is key to a good recovery in these types of injuries.  Tendon type injuries have been shown to respond very well to eccentrically driven exercises.  These exercises are often very slow and controlled movements under load. Accompanying this you will often have stretching and joint mobility work to complete at home/work.

A main focus of the consultation will be working out the aggravating factors of this injury and why it keeps occurring, once this has been identified it allows you to develop strategies to implement into you day to decrease aggravation.  This may mean that you need to use their mouse on the other side, or even undergoing the mentally challenging task of using your opposite hand for a lot of things. This change in pattern allows the body to begin healing, whilst also increasing the strength on the opposite side.  An important thing to remember here, is to not overload the opposite side as the same condition may start to present on that side.

If you know someone who has wrist pain or you are experiencing what has been described above yourself then give us a call at the clinic and we may be able to help you continue to move through life pain free in your day to day activities.

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