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Condition directory

Tendon problems of the wrist and hand

A tendon is a strong piece of soft tissue that connects a muscle to a bone. The muscles contract and pull on the tendons which then causes our bones to move. There are many tendons which run from the elbow into the hand. Some (but not all) tendons are also covered with a sheath known as a synovium. The job of the synovium is to provide lubrication for the tendon to glide effectively within its sheath.

'Tendinopathy' is pain that is contributed to by the tendons themselves. It has also been called 'tendonitis in the past. 'Tenosynovitis' is pain and inflammation of the 'sheath' that surrounds a tendon.

Tendinopathy and tenosynovitis can cause hand pain that may affect the wrist or the fingers.

The cause of tendinopathy is not always known. It may be brought on by repetitive overloading or a sudden increase in activity. All soft tissues have a certain tolerance to load depending upon our usual activity levels and tendon health. If we complete a certain activity which is repetitive and overwhelming for the tendon, this can provoke a response which may lead to some level of pain or discomfort. Tendinopathy can also be affected by other factors or conditions within the body, these include: 

  • Diabetes
  • Inflammatory joint conditions
  • Steroid use and certain antibiotics
  • (Peri)Menopausal women – this is related to hormonal changes which can impact on tendon structure
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Infection – this is rare. An open wound in the area may enable bacteria to infiltrate infect the tendon sheath. If you have experienced an injury such as this, you should see your GP to rule out any cause of infection.

The symptoms of tendinopathies are most commonly pain, tenderness and occasionally swelling and associated heat. The pain is usually provoked by moving or using the affected area.

Click the links below to find out more information on some of the more common tendon related issues.

De Quervain's tenosynovitis

Flexor tenosynovitis/ trigger finger