Tenosynovitis of the Wrist: Care Instructions

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Tenosynovitis (say "ten-oh-sin-uh-VY-tus") means the lining of a tendon is inflamed. This problem usually affects tendons in your thumb and wrist. A tendon is a cord that joins muscle to bone.

Tenosynovitis can be caused by an injury. Or it may be caused by repeating a movement over and over, such as when you knit, lift things, or play video games. In rare cases, an infected wound causes it.

In most cases, you can recover fully. But if the problem is caused by doing something over and over and you don't stop or change doing that, it may come back.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Prop up the sore wrist on a pillow when you ice it or anytime you sit or lie down during the next 3 days. Try to keep it above the level of your heart. This will help reduce swelling.
  • Put ice or cold packs on your wrist for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours for the next 3 days (when you are awake) or until the swelling goes down. Put a thin cloth between the ice pack and your skin.
  • If your swelling is gone after 2 or 3 days, put a heating pad set on low or a warm cloth on your wrist for 15 to 20 minutes. This can reduce pain.
  • If your doctor gave you an elastic bandage, keep it on for the next 24 to 36 hours or for as long as your doctor told you. The bandage should be snug. But it should not be tight enough to cause numbness, tingling, or swelling.
  • If your doctor gave you a splint or brace, wear it as directed. It will protect your wrist until it is better.
  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If your doctor prescribes antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Try not to use your injured wrist and hand.
  • After you are better, do exercises to make the muscles around your tendon stronger. This can prevent the problem from coming back. Follow instructions from your doctor.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your hand or fingers are cool or pale or change colors.
  • You have tingling, weakness, or numbness in your hand and fingers.
  • Your pain gets worse.
  • The tendon may be infected. Signs of infection include:
    • Increased pain and tenderness around the wrist or thumb.
    • Swelling or redness of the wrist or thumb.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.