Harvard Women's Health Watch

Tendon trouble in the hands: de Quervain's tenosynovitis and trigger finger

Women are more likely than men to develop these painful conditions.

Our hands connect us with the world. We work with our hands and communicate with our hands. The wear and tear from all that use can sometimes cause painful conditions, and women are particularly prone to develop two of these: de Quervain's (pronounced deh-KWER-vins) tenosynovitis and stenosing tenosynovitis (or trigger finger). Both involve the tendons of the hand.

In the hand, tendons connect the muscles of the forearm and wrist to the bones of the fingers and thumb, allowing us to bend our wrists and hand joints and move our fingers and thumbs. The tendons are held in place by tubelike fibrous membranes, or sheaths, and coated with a slippery tissue called the synovial membrane, which helps them slide smoothly through the sheaths. As a result of overuse, or a medical condition such as rheumatoid arthritis, or sometimes for no clear reason, tendons and tendon sheaths can become inflamed, swollen, and thickened, causing pain that can limit movement. This condition is called tenosynovitis.

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