Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Wrist FAQ


What is "washerwoman's sprain"?


Washerwoman's sprain was used to describe a painful condition of the hand and wrist 100 years ago. Women who made their living washing clothes developed painful swelling caused by a form of tendinitis. Today, this condition is called de Quervain's disease. It can affect anyone who repeatedly uses the wrist and hand in a sideways or wringing motion.

De Quervain's disease is an inflammatory condition that affects two tendons of the thumb where they cross the wrist. The tendons are covered by a lining and tucked inside a canal that allows them to glide back and forth during movement. When the tendons are used over and over, irritation leads to inflammation. This leads to a thickening of the tendons and their coverings. Pain, swelling, and loss of thumb motion are the primary symptoms.

Women are the most susceptible to this problem. Jobs that require a repetitive sideways motion of the wrist with the hand and thumb in a gripped position also lead to de Quervain's. Hairdressers, musicians, carpenters, skiers, and assembly line workers are especially at risk.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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