What is De Quervain’s Syndrome, or ‘Blackberry Thumb’, and what treatments work? Mr Sam Molyneux, Orthopaedic Consultant at The Edinburgh Clinic explains.


  • What is De Quervain’s Disease?

  • Why does it happen?

  • What are the symptoms?

  • What is the treatment?

  • What is the outcome?

What is De Quervain’s Syndrome? (aka De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis)

De Quervain’s Disease, aka De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis and sometimes called ’Blackberry Thumb’, is a painful rubbing of the tendons on the thumb side of the wrist. The pain can sometimes be very severe.

Why does it happen?

The tendons that move the thumb are held in place by a tight tunnel of tissue on the side of the wrist. Sometimes these tendons can rub causing inflammation and pain. Why this should happen is not yet fully understood, but we do know that it is more common in women – especially when they are pregnant or over 40. Sometimes it can be brought on by repetitive heavy use of the thumb such as during sport or leisure activities (or lifting a baby!) but often no such cause is identified.

What are the symptoms?

The main symptom is pain. This is located on the thumb side of the wrist a couple of centimetres up the arm from the thumb. Sometimes this area is also tender and can be swollen. The pain is often worst if the thumb is tucked into the palm. The strength of the thumb is not usually affected.

What is the treatment?

The first thing to do is rest the thumb and where possible avoid the activities that cause the worst pain (often difficult for mothers of a young baby).  A splint that includes the thumb can help with this and can be bought over the counter or supplied by a physiotherapist.

Anti-inflammatory medicines and ice can also help.

An injection of local anaesthetic and steroid can be extremely effective. Occasionally more than one injection is needed.

Where surgery is required, it’s usually done under local anaesthetic and involves a small incision over the area of worst pain to allow the tunnel squeezing the tendon to be released. This is usually very effective at relieving pain.

What is the outcome?

For many people with bad De Quervain’s the situation can seem miserable and hopeless, but with adequate treatment by far the majority of patients will go on to make a complete recovery.

The Edinburgh Clinic’s specialist Orthopaedics and Sports Injuries facility treats a full range of hand and wrist problems, including De Quervain’s Syndrome. We welcome self-pay and insured patients from Edinburgh, the Lothians and across Scotland.

Learn more about our treatment for De Quervain’s Syndrome, click here 

Date: 13/07/2018
By: Mr Sam Molyneux