Tendonitis is a disorder where the muscles and tendons in the wrist experience inflammation. It is quite harmless, but it can often be painful when using the hand or moving the wrist. Sometimes you may even feel – and hear – a creaking sensation in the joints. Although the disorder occurs relatively out of the blue, it is often an injury that appears after a period of harmful movements or through a severe overload of the wrist.
What is Tendonitis
If you experience hand, wrist, or thumb pain, you may be at risk of suffering from tendonitis. The tendons of the fingers and wrist glide through narrow tendon sheaths as they run from the forearm muscles and further on to the bone, where they are fixed.
With tendonitis, irritation will occur through inflammation of the tissue surrounding these tendons. Therefore, the tissue will swell and squeeze on the tendon sheath so that the tendon does not run nearly as smoothly as it usually does.
Typically, one will detect it through pains in the thumb and wrist. In such cases, tendonitis is called de Quervain’s syndrome. This is named after the Swiss doctor Fritz de Quervain, who first published the disorder. These wrist and thumb pains occur most frequently in women between 35 and 55 years.
The difference between tendinitis and tenosynovitis
While both conditions seem pretty familiar, a key difference is distinct between them. Tendinitis occurs when a tendon is inflamed, leading to swelling and pain. Tendons are the cords of tissue that connect bone to muscle. It occurs mainly through sports or repetitive motions at work that stresses the tendons.
So, what is tenosynovitis? It is linked to tendinitis, as it is a condition that occurs when the sheath surrounding the tendons is suffering from inflammation. These two ailments are split up because you can either experience inflammation in only the sheath but also both sheath and tendon simultaneously.
Source: Cooper Health
Symptoms of tendinitis
The main symptoms when suffering from tendonitis are pains and swelling around the wrist and thumb. This happens when you use them actively.
If you continue to use your hand without giving it rest or doing exercises, you will typically aggravate it and cause further harm. In worst cases, you can feel such severe pain in the thumb and wrist that you will find it impossible to use the hand.
In some cases of tendonitis, one will experience a creaking sound. To some, it may sound like the floorboards of old horror movies, why it can be a bit terrifying. It is, however, quite normal, and harmless while uncomfortable.
However, it is essential to emphasize that these conditions in no way cause severe or life-threatening symptoms. They just really hurt.
How does tendonitis occur?
Tendonitis is a common disorder that can happen to anyone. Medically, it is considered an irritating condition that causes pain and swelling in the wrist around the thumb. The irritation occurs when muscles or tendon sheaths in the wrist experience inflammation. The difference between a common inflammation and a tendon inflammation is that the inflammation related to tendonitis occurs without bacteria but by tendon overload.
Tendonitis occurs mainly based on three causes. Firstly, it can happen through a blow or a shock that affects the tendon sheath or tendons. Secondly, it can occur in the event of an overload of the thumb or wrist, which ultimately means the tendons have been working on overtime. Finally, it can happen through one-sided, repetitive work, which over time strains the wrist and thereby the tendons.
Concerning the latter, some professional groups are at greater risk, such as painters, cleaning staff, or other groups with lots of manual work.
However, you are by no means risk-free if you sit behind the computer daily. Typically, computer users tend to work quite intensely with their mouse and keyboard, and quite often in inappropriate working positions. It can strain the body quite severely – and thereby also the arms and wrists – if, for example, you work at a table that does not have the proper height.
If you are already experiencing pain, a swollen thumb, etc., treatment will mainly be about de-stressing the wrists and fingers to reduce the inflammation before, ultimately, disappearing. As such, you must keep your hand as still as possible and avoid using it. Therefore, you must pause in any form of physical activity that involves moving your hand. Other than walking, cycling, etc.
If you have a job that consists of manual or repetitive work and experience thumb pains, you should try to find a way to work around it. As it can be tricky, speak to your manager to figure out the best possible solution for you.
In addition to rest, you can treat it by using support bandages and compressions that keep you from straining the exposed areas. Additionally, painkillers can help prevent inflammation.
When the pain is about to subside, you can start exercises and strength training with a minimal load. Again, here it would be a good idea to use a support bandage.
There are also medical treatments that you can try if it does not help with simple relief methods. Arthritis medicine reduces inflammation and acts as a painkiller, which is why it is often used as the first medical alternative. If this does not work either, you can try treatment through adrenocortical hormone or various steroid injections with your doctor. Ultimately, the last resort is an operation, where your tendon sheath is widened to make the tendon slide through more easily.
What can you do yourself against tendonitis and tenosynovitis?
In addition to resting an overloaded thumb and wrist, there are several exercises and initiatives you can try out yourself, which both prevent and treat tendonitis and tenosynovitis.
These exercises consist of endurance training that focuses on the muscles where your pain can occur. You can find a lot of exercises online. Still, it is always a good idea to talk to a physiotherapist or occupational therapist who has a deep insight into the body and its functions.
If you are struggling with the ailments today, you can still work out and stretch your arm, wrist, and hands. However, you must not worsen the injury by overloading further. While soreness and muscle pain is normal, it will calm down within 1-2 hours. If it lasts longer than that, there is a risk that you are pushing your body too heavily. If so, you can still do pain-relieving activity through a walk or bike ride, which changes your body position while keeping you active.