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10 Exercises for De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis

How exercise can help

De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is an inflammatory condition. It causes pain at the thumb side of your wrist where the base of your thumb meets your forearm. If you have de Quervain’s, strengthening exercises have been shown to speed up the healing process and reduce your symptoms.

For example, certain exercises can help:

  • decrease inflammation
  • improve function
  • prevent recurrences

You’ll also learn how to move your wrist in a way that reduces stress. You should see improvement within 4 to 6 weeks of beginning your exercise routine.

Keep reading for more on how to get started, as well as a step-by-step guide to 10 different exercises.

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Getting started

How to get started

For some of these exercises you’ll need this equipment:

  • putty ball
  • elastic resistance band
  • rubber band
  • small weight

If you don’t have a weight, you can use a can of food or a hammer. You can also fill a water bottle with water, sand, or rocks.

You can do these exercises a few times throughout the day. Make sure you don’t cause any additional stress or strain by overdoing it. If this does happen, you may need to do fewer repetitions or take a break for a few days.

Safety tips
  • Only stretch as far as your own edge.
  • Don’t force yourself into any position.
  • Make sure you refrain from doing any jerky movements.
  • Keep your movements even, slow, and smooth.

Thumb lifts

Exercise 1: Thumb lifts

thumb lift
  1. Place your hand on a flat surface with your palm facing up.
  2. Rest the tip of your thumb at the base of your fourth finger.
  3. Lift your thumb away from your palm so it’s nearly perpendicular to the forefinger side of your hand. You’ll feel a stretch at the back of your thumb and across your palm.
  4. Keep your thumb extended for about 6 seconds and release.
  5. Repeat 8 to 12 times.
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Opposition stretch

Exercise 2: Opposition stretch

opposition stretch
  1. Place your hand on a table with your palm facing up.
  2. Lift your thumb and your pinky.
  3. Gently press the tips of your thumb and pinky together. You’ll feel a stretch at the base of your thumb.
  4. Hold this position for 6 seconds.
  5. Release and repeat 10 times.

Thumb flexion

Exercise 3: Thumb flexion

thumb flexion
  1. Hold your hand in front of you as though you were going to shake someone’s hand. You can rest it on a table for support.
  2. Use your other hand to bend your thumb down at the base of the thumb where it connects to the palm. You’ll feel a stretch at the base of your thumb and the inside of your wrist.
  3. Hold for at least 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
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Finkelstein stretch

Exercise 4: Finkelstein stretch

Finkelstein
  1. Extend your arm in front of you as though you’re about to shake someone’s hand.
  2. Bend your thumb across your palm
  3. Use your opposite hand to gently stretch your thumb and wrist down. You’ll feel a stretch on the thumb side of your wrist.
  4. Hold for at least 15 to 30 seconds.
  5. Repeat two to four times.
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Wrist flexion

Exercise 5: Wrist flexion

Wrist flexion
  1. Extend your arm with your palm facing up.
  2. Hold a small weight in your hand and lift your wrist upward. You’ll feel a stretch at the back of your hand.
  3. Slowly lower your wrist down to return the weight to its original position.
  4. Do two sets of 15.

As you get stronger, you can gradually increase the weight.

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Wrist extension

Exercise 6: Wrist extension

Wrist extension
  1. Extend your arm with your palm facing down.
  2. Hold a small weight as you slowly bend your wrist up and back. You’ll feel a stretch at the back of your hand and wrist.
  3. Slowly bring your wrist back to the original position.
  4. Do two sets of 15.

You can gradually increase the weight as you gain strength.

Wrist radial deviation strengthening

Exercise 7: Wrist radial deviation strengthening

Wrist radial deviation strengthening
  1. Extend your arm in front of you, palm facing inward, while holding a weight. Your thumb should be on top. Balance your forearm on a table and with your wrist positioned over the edge if you need extra support.
  2. Keeping your forearm still, gently bend your wrist up, with the thumb moving up toward the ceiling. You’ll feel a stretch at the base of your thumb where it meets your wrist.
  3. Slowly lower your arm back down to the original position.
  4. Do two sets of 15.
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Resisted ulnar deviation

Exercise 8: Resisted ulnar deviation

Resisted ulnar deviation
  1. Sit on a chair with your legs spread slightly open.
  2. Grasp one end of an elastic band with your right hand.
  3. Lean forward, put your right elbow on your right thigh, and let your forearm drop down between your knees.
  4. Using your left foot, step on the other end of the elastic band.
  5. With your palm facing down, slowly bend your right wrist to the side away from your left knee. You’ll feel a stretch at the back and the inside of your hand.
  6. Repeat 8 to 12 times.
  7. Repeat this exercise on your left hand.

Grip strengthening

Exercise 9: Grip strengthening

Grip strengthening
  1. Squeeze a putty ball for five seconds as at time.
  2. Do two sets of 15.

Finger spring

Exercise 10: Finger spring

finger spring
  1. Place a rubber band or hair tie around your thumb and fingers. Make sure the band is tight enough to offer some resistance.
  2. Open your thumb to stretch the rubber band as far as you can. You’ll feel a stretch along your thumb.
  3. Do two sets of 15.
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See your doctor

When to see your doctor

It’s important for you to perform these exercises consistently to reduce your symptoms and prevent flare-ups. You can also use hot and cold therapy on your wrist or take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil) for pain relief.

If you’ve taken measures to alleviate your pain and your wrist isn’t getting better, you should see a doctor. Together you can determine the best course of healing action.

They may refer you to a specialist for further treatment. It’s essential that you treat de Quervain’s. If left untreated, it can cause permanent damage to your range of motion or cause the tendon sheath to burst.

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