A woman with De Quervain's tenosynovitis holds her thumb due to pain.

Is This Serious? Why Does My Thumb Hurt?

Kerrie-Ann Bernard Is this serious?, Limb pain


Sometimes all you want to know is if something is serious or not. Experiencing pain at the base of your thumb or a sticking catching feeling when you move your thumb can be worrisome for sure. If you’re experiencing pain, pinching or swelling at the base of your thumb it could be de Quervain’s Tenosynovitis pronounced dih-kwer-VAINS ten-oh-sine-oh-VIE-tis). While we always suggest you seek medical care at the onset of any new symptoms, sometimes you just need to know how much to worry. So, today we’ll address thumb tendon pain that happens at the base of the thumb, a possible cause, and treatment options.


Do you feel a slight pinch when you grab something or flick your wrist? Do you have difficulty gripping, holding, or graphing objects? Does it hurt when you push on the area between the thumb and the wrist? This pain and limited mobility are the symptoms we’re addressing today. Over time, that pinch and catching feeling can develop into pain that travels up the forearm. People with De Quervain’s often experience:

  • Pain when grasping or pinching something
  • Swelling and/or inflammation where the thumbs meets the wrist
  • Difficulty with turning the wrist inward
  • Pain along the top of the thumb


Although there could be any number of reasons for thumb pain, a common cause is de Quervain’s Tenosynovitis. While the exact cause of de Quervain’s is debated, it is thought to be a repetitive strain injury. de Quervain’s occurs when the sheath surrounding the two tendons in your thumbs becomes irritated causing swelling and thickening of the tendon that then restricts movement. This condition is common for people repeat a particular movement day after day, such as people that:

  • Play a lot of video games
  • Use or hold a cell phone for long periods of time
  • Type a lot, use a mouse, or a computer often
  • Have injured their wrist
  • Have rheumatoid arthritis or other inflammatory arthritis


If you are experiencing thumb pain at the base as a result of gaming, using a mouse, or cell phone you should seek an assessment from a physiotherapist. When caught early, treatment for de Quervain’s Tenosynovitis is simple and straightforward with many patients seeing a noticeable improvement in about 4 to 6 weeks. Non-surgical physiotherapy-focused treatments for de Quervain’s Tenosynovitis include:

  • Strengthening and stretching exercises
  • Activity modification
  • Splinting
  • Deep tissue massage

If caught and treated early and effectively you can see an improvement in symptoms within a relatively short period of time. If you think you might have de Quervain’s Tenosynovitis it’s best to book an appointment with a qualified physiotherapist to get a full assessment and treatment plan in place– no doctor referral needed!*




*A doctor referral may be required to access your third party insurance

Share this Post