You’re a new mom to a gorgeous little babe! Yay!
But you’ve started to notice your body is slowly deteriorating….oh no…. You thought the hard part was over (eg. giving birth)? And despite all of your “war wounds” – tearing, abdominal separation, weakened pelvic floor muscles, cracked/sore nipples….you’ve now noticed an intense pain in your wrists, hands and thumbs! Things get super sore when you pick up your beautiful beaming babe…ouchy! Feels like your body is broken! Sound familiar?
If so, don’t panic yet!
The wrist/hand/thumb pain you are describing sounds like a condition called De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis or as its commonly called, “mother’s wrist” or “mommy thumb”. De Quervain’s results from irritation and inflammation of the tendons that run from the base of the thumb to the wrist and forearm. As the tendons become more inflamed they rub against the “tunnel” that encloses them causing pain along the thumb side of the wrist.
Although anyone can develop De Quervain’s, it is most common in new moms (and a few new dads too). The repetition of lifting a baby numerous times during the day adds undue stress to a fatigued wrist.
In 2009, a study from the University of Colorado found that women were four times more likely to develop De Quervain’s than men. In addition, some women experience symptoms during pregnancy as a result of fluid retention and hormonal changes causing the tissues around the tendons to swell and become inflamed.
Research has suggested that between 25-50% of new moms develop de Quervain’s during their baby’s first few months. Early recognition and treatment is key. If you are experiencing wrist or thumb pain, see your chiropractor as soon as possible for diagnosis and treatment options.
Unfortunately, mommy thumb seldom resolves on its own, however there are a few things you can do to get a grip on the pain.
01 / Use a different lifting technique – “the scoop”. One of the most important things you can do to prevent further injury is to modify your lifting technique. Instead of picking up your baby under his arms using primarily the thumb and index finger (in an “L” shape), try “the scoop” technique. Keep the palm of your hand up and try scooping him up by lifting under his bottom with one hand (keeping your thumb and index finger glued together) and supporting the back of his head with the other hand.
02/ Check breastfeeding position. Many women report that breastfeeding can irritate an already painful wrist, particularly during breast compressions (to help milk flow). Supporting or cradling baby’s head puts a strain on the wrist. Use a pillow to support the weight of the baby’s head so it isn’t resting in your hand.
03/ Rest & Ice. Ok so maybe resting your wrist is out of the question if you have a new baby. However, when your partner or a friend/relative is at home with you, hand over the baby and rest your wrist. This will allow some healing to occur. Icing frequently to decrease inflammation is also helpful.
04/ Try using a splint. A splint or brace that prevents the thumb and wrist from moving will help decrease swelling and discomfort. Wearing the brace consistently is important and many moms see an improvement in just a couple of weeks.
05/ Rehabilitative Exercises/Stretches. Stretching your wrist muscles and gently massaging the area may help. In addition, your chiropractor can help provide some key strengthening exercises that can help increase the strength in your muscles. See my video below for some quick easy stretches and exercises that can help!
06/ Avoid texting. Put your smartphone down and slowly back away. Texting is a sure fire way to re-aggravate an already sore wrist and thumb.
07/ Consult with a health practitioner. A chiropractor can definitely help guide your treatment and recovery. Acupuncture has been shown to help! Often this condition takes some time to get better, so be patient with yourself and your body.
A few easy stretches and exercises that will help!
Hang in there mama! As your baby becomes a bit more mobile, your wrist pain will likely decrease. This may bring a whole host of other issues – but that’s for another day!