Physical and Occupational Therapy

Tenosynovitis Caused by Texting

Are you constantly glued to your device?

There is no denying that technology has transformed the way we live. The average teenager now spends 4 hours a day texting. Eventually, one is at risk of developing tenosynovitis, otherwise known as De Quervain’s disease. This is characterized by pain that overlies the radial aspect (thumb side) of the wrist. It is aggravated by ulnar deviation which is movement of the wrist towards the little finger or simply making a fist to grasp an object. The most common cause of De Quervain tenosynovitis is overuse of the thumb muscle. With the development of new hand held devices such as tablets and phones, our thumbs are doing a constant repetitive motion on a daily basis! Today’s society and the future will likely see more prevalence of this disease.

 De Quervain’s in a Nutshell

De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is often associated with rheumatoid arthritis and pregnancy. It is also an overuse injury associated with texting, golfing, piano playing, and carrying a child in the arms for extended periods. De Quervain’s is sometimes called “mother’s thumb” because it often develops in new mothers, possibly because of the repetitive movements needed to care for an infant[2]. According to the American Osteopathic Association, there is inflammation of the fibrous sheath surrounding the tendons of the abductor pollicis longus and extensor pollicis brevis.

de quervain's


It should be painful on the radial (thumb side) when making a fist or grasping an object. If the problem goes untreated, pain may radiate up the forearm and further down in the hand. Crepitus may also be present which is a sound produced because of friction between bone and bone or bone and cartilage.[1] The Frankenstein test is used to diagnose this condition by a physical therapist.


De Quervain's disease

Surgery is always a last resort when it comes to treating De Quervain’s, but may be necessary if alternative treatments do not relieve the symptoms.  The primary goal is to relieve the ache and pain that is caused by the inflammation and friction of the sheath that the tendons pass through. Physical therapy and rest is optimal as the first treatment. Shown in the figure to the right  are some examples of exercises and stretches that would take place at physical therapy. It would mainly focus on wrist flexion/extension and radial/ulnar deviation ONLY if it did not cause further pain.  There are also other options such as compression sleeves, NSAIDs, cortisone, taping, and bracing that can be done to try and improve the symptoms.

De Quervain’s is just one bad effect of texting. It can also lead to poor posture and place unwanted stress on the neck! Just something to take caution about. Instead of staring down at the screen, bring the screen up to you.

Texting spine
Texting spine

Feel free to give us feedback  with any questions or comments below!

If you are in need of physical therapy, call Rehab Associates at 740-345-2837 to schedule your appointment today!

  1. Vandever, Leslie( 2014 April 4). Arthritis knee noise: Crepitus and popping. Retrieved from
  2. de Quervain F. On a form of chronic tendovaginitis by Dr. Fritz de Quervain in la Chaux-de-Fonds. 1895. Am J Orthop. 1997 Sep. 26(9):641-4. [Medline].

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