If the thumb side of your hand aches, it may be due to wrist tendonitis. Fortunately, a simple surgical procedure can reverse the condition.
Wrist tendonitis — which is also known as De Quervain’s tendonitis — sets in when the tendons and tendon sheath running along the thumb side of the hand become painful and tender, usually due to overuse. The condition is characterized by increased discomfort when gripping an object, turning the wrist, or closing the hand into a fist.
The wrist contains two primary tendons on the thumb side, which are encased in a soft tissue called “synovium.” In a healthy wrist, synovium allows the tendons to move comfortably within the tendon sheath (essentially a small tunnel in the wrist). Unfortunately, overly repetitive motions can irritate the tendons and stiffen the sheath, causing the thumb to ache and the hand to lose its ability to perform some tasks.
To diagnose wrist tendonitis, a doctor performs a Finkelstein test, which requires patients to tuck their thumb against their hand and make a fist. The fingers cover the thumb while the patient stretches the wrist toward the little finger; if the patient experiences a jolt of severe pain, it indicates that the wrist’s tendons are inflamed.
When conservative treatment options such as corticosteroids or anti-inflammatory medications fail to relieve wrist tendonitis, surgery may be warranted. During the procedure, the surgeon locates the painful tendons and makes an incision. Then, the surgeon removes any scar tissue to free the tendons from any restrictions. He or she may also repair any damaged tendon ends, if necessary.
If you’ve been told that you require wrist tendonitis surgery, you’ll want to know what to expect during the rehabilitation period. Fortunately, your wrist will regain its full range of motion within six to 12 weeks; however, you must adhere to some important guidelines to ensure a complete recovery.
What to Expect After Surgery
Immediately following the outpatient surgery, the area around the incision will be painful and swollen once the anesthesia wears off. You may experience a tingling sensation or numbness as well.
To keep the wrist immobile and allow it to mend, you’ll need to wear a splint or cast on your wrist for a couple of weeks. About two weeks after the surgery your doctor will remove any stitches, and you’ll start a physical therapy or occupational therapy program to build up strength in the hand and fingers and increase range of motion. Your physical therapist can also show you how to increase wrist function with movements that ease stress on the wrist.
In addition, to speed your recovery process, follow these methods to promote proper healing:
- Elevate your hand while lying down, and keep it steady. Do this as many times as you can for the first two to three days post-surgery.
- Ice the wrist for at least three days after surgery. Repeat the ice therapy every one to two hours, but limit the intervals to 10 to 15 minutes.
- Avoid any strenuous activities that involve the hand. Don’t lift heavy objects or perform household tasks that require wrist movement, like chopping vegetables.
- Change the bandage every day. Be sure to keep it clean and dry.
Your doctor may prescribe pain medication, or you can purchase over-the-counter pain reducers. How soon you can return to work depends on the types of tasks you perform; if your job requires heavy lifting or frequent wrist actions (like shifting a computer mouse), you’ll probably have to wait up to 12 weeks after surgery. If your job doesn’t require your hands, it’s likely you can return sooner. You’ll also need to talk to your doctor to learn when you can resume driving.
Complications from wrist tendonitis surgery are rare, but if you notice any signs of infection (including fever, pus seeping from the incision, bleeding, or a warm feeling around the wound), report the symptoms to your doctor immediately.
Thinking of Wrist Tendonitis Surgery?
The specialists at Florida Hand Center offers a variety of services specifically designed for the treatment of hand and arm orthopedic disorders. If your wrist pain has not responded to more conservative methods, we can help you decide if surgery is a good option for you. Contact us today.