Wrist tendonitis: causes and treatment

Tendonitis in the wrist occurs due to repetitive movements that lead to inflammation of the tendons present in the joint, with local pain, swelling and redness, difficulty in performing movements with the joint and weakness, for example. When there is involvement of the tendon located at the base of the thumb, this inflammation is called De Quervain's tenosynovitis, in which in addition to the symptoms of tendinitis, there is an accumulation of fluid around the tendon.

The diagnosis can be made by the orthopedist or physiotherapist after observing the region and analyzing the individual's clinical history. In addition, specific tests can be performed to identify tenosynovitis and image exams, such as x-rays and magnetic resonance imaging, which, although not really necessary, help in the diagnosis and allow to identify whether or not there was calcification in the tendon, in addition to the extension inflammation, which can influence treatment.

Treatment can be done with the use of anti-inflammatories, joint immobilization and physical therapy, however in more severe cases surgery may be necessary. In the case of pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding, treatment should not be done with pills, but in the form of an ointment that should be applied directly to the pain site, in addition to stretching.

Main causes

Wrist tendonitis and De Quervain's tenosynovitis are classified as Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI), that is, they happen as a consequence of repetitive joint movement, which can happen due to several situations, such as:

  • Excessive use of thumbs and arms with repetitive movements;
  • Write a lot;
  • Hold the baby in the lap with the thumb facing down;
  • To paint;
  • To fish;
  • Enter;
  • To sew;
  • Do weight training exercises that involve the wrist joint;
  • Play a musical instrument for many hours straight.

In addition, tendonitis and tenosynovitis can happen due to a great effort of the muscles involved, such as holding something very heavy, such as a shopping bag with only one hand, for a long period of time.

See more about tenosynovitis.

How the treatment is done

Treatment may vary according to the severity of the inflammation, but in all cases it is necessary to rest the joint so that the inflammation does not worsen. The best way to rest is through immobilization, as this way the joint is not used, which favors improvement. In addition, you can also put ice on the spot for a few minutes, as it also helps to relieve the symptoms of inflammation.


Stretching and strengthening exercises can be used from day one and are essential for recovery. It can be useful to do the exercise of squeezing a soft ball or clay in 3 sets of 20 repetitions. In addition, the physiotherapist may also use techniques for mobilizing joints and tapes to immobilize the tendon.

Physiotherapy for tendonitis in the wrist can be done with electrotherapy and thermotherapy devices that help to deflate and fight pain, in addition to exercises that increase the mobility and strength of weakened muscles. Devices such as Tens, Ultrasound, Laser and Galvanic Current can be used to accelerate healing.


The main characteristic of this disease is the degeneration and thickening of the tendon sheath, located on the wrist and, therefore, surgery can be useful to release the tendon sheath, facilitating the movement of tendons within it. Surgery should only be used as a last resort, when even after months of physiotherapy there is no improvement in symptoms and even after this procedure, it will be necessary to undergo physiotherapy to recover strength, movement and reduce pain and swelling.

Home treatment for tendonitis in the wrist

A great home treatment for tendonitis in the wrist is to put an ice pack on the wrist for 20 minutes, daily, 2 times a day. But to protect your skin from burns, wrap the ice pack (or a packet of frozen vegetables) in a sheet of kitchen paper. After this period, the region will be anesthetized and it will be easier to perform the following stretching:

  1. Stretch your arm with your palm facing up;
  2. With the help of your other hand, stretch your fingers backwards towards the floor, keeping your arm straight;
  3. Hold the position for 1 minutes and rest 30 seconds.

It is recommended to do this exercise 3 times in a row in the morning and at night to increase the flexibility of the muscles, tendon and improve oxygenation in the affected structures, bringing relief from symptoms. See also a great massage technique in the following video: