Syracuse Area Health – Strasburger Orthopaedics

Tenosynovitis: The Hand and Finger Version of Tendonitis

If you have difficulty moving your fingers, or a finger or thumb tends to lock up on you and stay frozen in place, you could have tenosynovitis. Closely related to tendonitis, this condition is common in athletes or anyone who does repetitive motion with their hands, like manual laborers or typists.

What is the difference between tendonitis and tenosynovitis?

Your tendons are strong cords of connective tissue that attach your muscles to your bones. Your tendons are covered in a protective sheath to help prevent damage to the tendon and reduce friction.

When a tendon is inflamed, you can experience swelling and pain along the length of the tendon, where the tendon connects to the muscle or bone, or both. This is known as tendonitis, and it’s more common in the shoulder, elbow, and wrist.

When the tendon sheath is inflamed, you can have swelling and pain at one point or at several, and the tendon may end up immobilized. This is known as tenosynovitis, and it’s more common in the hands and fingers. 

Common causes of tenosynovitis

The exact cause of your tenosynovitis may be hard to identify. It could be caused by an injury, a strain, overuse, or overextension. People who have an infection, diabetes, or rheumatoid arthritis are more susceptible to tendon sheath inflammation.   


The most common types of tenosynovitis can be caused by overuse in sports or overwork in a job that requires repetitive motion. 

  • DeQuervain’s tenosynovitis is the most common type of tenosynovitis disorder, and presents as swelling in the tendon sheath of the tendons of the thumb. Symptoms are pain in the wrist usually concentrated around and below the base of the thumb.
  • Trigger finger or thumb is another fairly type of tenosynovitis, and presents as swelling of the tendon sheath in the affected finger or thumb. Symptoms are pain and a joint that will “trigger” or lock suddenly, staying frozen in a curled position and proving difficult to extend or flex.

Treatment for tenosynovitis

Dr. Strasburger will carefully examine you to determine if your hand or finger pain is being caused by tendon sheath inflammation. Then he can discuss your options with you. Depending on the severity of the injury, he may recommend one or more of the following: 

  • Activity changes
  • Icing
  • Splinting
  • Anti-inflammatories
  • Antibiotics (if there is infection)
  • Steroid injections
  • Surgery to repair damage 

If you think you have a tendon sheath inflammation in your hands and fingers, we can help. Contact Syracuse Area Health – Strasburger Orthopaedics for a consultation today.

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