You often don’t appreciate something until it has gone or is not functioning well. This is certainly the case when it comes to a type of wrist and thumb pain called “De Quervain’s syndrome.” De Quervain’s syndrome is a painful condition that affects the tendons at the base of the thumb. The pain usually comes on gradually and gets ignored until simple, everyday tasks like taking lids off jars, gardening, or holding a child are very painful. The pain can be very sharp and sudden and there may be a “stuck” feeling at the base of the thumb during movement. Some patients do present with swelling in the wrist at the base of the thumb.
De Quervain’s syndrome is often considered an overuse injury of the thumb, hence the reason it often affects people that use their hands to grip and grasp objects on a repetitive basis, such as: carpenters, mothers with small children, and painters. However, it can also be aggravated by arthritis of the thumb.
When in good health, the tendons at the base of the thumb should glide smoothly through a tube called a tendon sheath. Overuse from constant gripping and squeezing objects and the consequent repetitive sliding of the tendon through the sheath can cause the sheath itself to become irritated and swollen.
This irritation of the tendon sheath can cause pain and make it impossible to complete simple tasks like opening a jar, picking up a child or using tools like a hammer. For some people, even touching or bumping the tendon itself can cause excruciating pain.
Acupuncture treatment for De Quervain's syndrome works by stimulating a local healing response in the wrist and thumb which helps to relieve the pain, swelling and irritation of the affected tendon sheaths of the thumb. This in turn allows the tendons of thumb to glide through their sheaths without pain and restriction.
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Ryan Samuels - Registered Acupuncturist & Chinese Herbalist