Tendons transmit force from muscles to produce movement and stabilise joints. The tendons in your hand and wrist can become painful due to trauma or increased use over time. Anatomical tunnels in the wrist and hand are common sites where pain and swelling, clicking, triggering, or creaking is felt when tendons are injured or irritated.
Hand therapists have extensive experience in treating tendon conditions. The tendons in the wrist and hand have unique architecture and pass through tight anatomical tunnels so require a different treatment approach to tendon injuries in the rest of the body. Treatment varies according to the tendon involved. Activity modification, splint supports, and a graduated reconditioning program are important in the rehabilitation process. Read below and see our information sheets for more details.
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We have clinics in Merivale, Papanui, Moorhouse Ave, Halswell and Kaiapoi
The most common tendon and muscle conditions we treat are:
- Trigger finger and trigger thumb – Catching or locking of your finger or thumb caused by swelling of the tendons that make them bend. The tendons move through a tunnel (tendon sheath) and can catch at the opening when the tendon or the tunnel is inflamed or thickened. You may notice your finger or thumb is hard to straighten or gets stuck in a bent position, this if often worse in the morning when you wake up.
- De Quervains tenosynovitis – Pain and swelling in the tendons that run across your wrist and into the thumb, caused by pressure in the tunnel they pass through at the wrist. Pressure in the tunnel makes the pain and inflammation worse the more you move and may continue to get worse over time. It is a common condition in new mothers.
- Intersection syndrome – Pain and swelling on the back of your wrist where two different tendon compartments cross over each other. This can happen after doing an activity you are not used to that involves gripping or wrist movement. You can sometimes feel or hear creaking in your wrist.
- Extensor carpi ulnaris (ECU) tendinopathy – Pain and swelling in the tendon on the little finger side of your wrist. This condition is painful with gripping, lifting and twisting movements. You may feel the pain and inflammation gets worse over time.
- Tennis elbow and Golfers elbow – Pain at the elbow where your forearm muscles attach to the bone. These conditions affect different sides of the elbow and can occur with increased or repetitive wrist movements and gripping and these activities become painful and hard to do. There may be age-related tears in the tendon that contribute to the pain caused after injury.
- Muscle strains – Injury to any muscle can cause inflammation, pain and a reduced ability to use the elbow, wrist or hand. Sprains can occur from an injury or after prolonged use. Your hand therapist will assess your muscles and make a treatment plan. This may involve the use of a soft support to rest the muscle for a short period of time and an individualised reconditioning program to regain strength and flexibility.
Tendon Condition FAQs
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Tendons have a low blood supply so can take at least 12 weeks to heal. In the hand and wrist it is important to first reduce the cause of pain and inflammation so your tendon can start to heal. If the tendon has been surgically repaired, safe movement guided by a hand therapist is needed for the tendon heal properly.
Catching or locking of your finger caused by swelling of the tendons that make it bend. Trigger finger is first treated by a splint to prevent the catching or locking, soft tissue treatments to reduce swelling, and exercises to keep the tendon and joint moving. Sometimes if things do not improve an injection or surgery may be needed.
DeQuervains tenosynovitis is characterised by pain in the tendons that run across your wrist and into the thumb, caused by swelling and pressure in the tunnel they pass through at the wrist. Treatment involves a splint or cast to rest the tendons, soft tissue treatments to reduce swelling and exercises to keep the tendons and joints moving.
Safe strengthening and stretching of the forearm muscles without causing pain the elbow is beneficial for tendon healing in tennis elbow. Your hand therapist will show you appropriate exercises for your injury.
These information sheets include more details about particular conditions and how they are treated.
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Merivale Hand Clinic
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De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is a condition that affects two tendons that run from the back of the thumb down the side of the wrist. De Quervain’s
Rehabilitation of the Hand, Wrist and Elbow
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Our team of 12 hand therapists have undergraduate degrees in physiotherapy or occupational therapy and have all completed a post graduate qualification in hand and upper limb therapy. Together we have a total of over 150 years of experience in hand therapy!