Tendon Swelling in the Hand | Orthopaedics | Loyola Medicine

Tendon Swelling in the Hand

Overview and Facts about Tendon Swelling in the Hand

Tendon swelling in the hand occurs when the tendon is injured. The tendon in your hand is a flexible but inelastic cord of tissue that connects the muscles of the forearm with the fingers and bones. This type of injury is an orthopaedic condition.

Signs and Symptoms of Tendon Swelling in the Hand

The common signs and symptoms associated with tendon injuries in the hand include:

  • Pain, tenderness, redness, warmth, and/or swelling near the injured tendon.
  • Pain that increases with activity.
  • A crunchy sound or feeling when the tendon is used, called crepitus, that is is typically painful.
  • Pain and stiffness may be worse during the night or when getting up in the morning.
  • Stiffness in the joint near the affected tendon.

Causes and Risk Factors of Tendon Swelling in the Hand

A number of different conditions can lead to tendon swelling in the hand, including:

  • De Quervain’s tendonitis: Tendonitis that is characterized by swelling in the tendons along the thumb side of the wrist.
  • Extensor tendon injuries: This injury can happen by jamming or cutting and damaging the extensor tendon, which is located on the back of the hand.
  • Flexor tendon laceration: Flexor tendons extend from the flexor muscle in the forearm into the hand and help you bend or flex the fingers. A deep cut on the palm side of the wrist, hand, or fingers can damage this tendon.
  • Trigger finger: If the tendon in the fingers lining swells or develops a knot then trigger finger is the result; a “popping” or “catching” sensation can also be felt in the finger.

Tests and Diagnosis of Tendon Swelling in the Hand

Your doctor will examine your hand to determine if it is swollen and may order an MRI to determine the exact cause of the swelling. An MRI must be used because that particular image test provides imagery of tissues like tendons. A diagnosis can usually be confirmed during the initial appointment.

Treatment and Care for Tendon Swelling in the Hand

The primary goal of treatment for de Quervain’s tendonitis is to reduce swelling and pain in the wrist, which helps to restore normal function. If left untreated, the pain can spread up the forearm or down into the thumb. A cortisone injection and use of a splint can help reduce inflammation.

For trigger finger, a cortisone injection may be used to reduce the swelling, but nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen can be used to manage pain. In serious cases, the doctor may perform a percutaneous release, which involves inserting a needle into the tissue around the affected tendon and breaking apart the construction that is blocking smooth motion.

For both flexor and extensor tendon injuries, surgery is required for a cut or torn tendon. Stitches are used to bring the two ends of the tendon back together. If the tendon is not torn, a splint can be used until the tendon is healed. This normally takes about 8 weeks.

Conservative treatment options for all types of tendon swelling in the hand include:

  • Use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen or naproxen in either oral form or cream that can be applied to the affected area.
  • Cessation of any activities that exacerbate the condition.
  • Applying ice or heat to the concerned area.