Types of Tenosynovitis

Tenosynovitis is a condition that affects the sheath that surrounds a tendon and causes inflammation, pain and dysfunction in the sufferer. For more details see our section on tenosynovitis symptoms.


Tenosynovitis sufferers will often encounter pain and dysfunction in the hand, wrist or arms, but it can occur wherever there is a tendon in the body (usually a tendon that is subject to repetitive movements – tenosynovitis is after all classed as a repetitive strain injury). People in middle age are more susceptible to tenosynovitis and symptoms can come and go over time or with rest. Pain, swelling and dysfunction will occur in the area of the affected tendon and the suffered can feel a weakness or stiffening of the area that can last for just a day or two, or in more serious cases if it is left untreated it can last for weeks or even months.

Although any tendon in the body can be affected, there are specific areas in the body that are more susceptible to tenosynovitis and as such they have their own specific name and associated symptoms. The two other common types of tenosynovitis are De Quervain’s tenosynovitis and Stenosing Tenosynovitis (also known as Trigger Finger).

De Quervain’s tenosynovitis

De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is a condition that involves the inflammation of the tendons that are at the side of the hand at the base of the thumb. It is a common injury that can be caused by repetitive strain of the extensor pollicis brevis tendon or abductor pollicis longus tendon. Alternatively everyday tasks such as carrying heavy groceries using plastic bags or placing children into car seats can cause De Quervain’s tenosynovitis. Sufferers will typically encounter pain in the wrist at the base of the thumb and pain moving ones thumb.

Stenosing tenosynovitis or Trigger Finger

Stenosing tenosynovitis is a form of tenosynovitis that affects the fingers – usually the third finger, fourth finger or thumb. It can affect one finger all multiple fingers at the same time and it is caused by localised swelling of the flexor tendons of the hand. When the tendons swell they can become too thick for the sheath that envelops them and they can catch on the sheath when a sufferer attempts to move a finger or thumb. This can cause the digit/s to lock and gives rise to the “Trigger Finger” name because when the finger unlocks it pops back into position in much the same way as if the finger was being used to release a trigger on a firearm.

Tenosynovitis is a common form of repetitive strain injury and many adults have or will suffer from it as some point in their lives. Women have more of a propensity to suffer from Trigger Finger than men and most incidences of tenosynovitis are prevalent in people in middle or advancing years. A period of rest for the affected area will often see the eradication of the condition although if symptoms persist it is wise that the sufferer seeks the advice of a fully qualified medical professional.