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  • TABLE OF CONTENTS

    Written by Hillary Bennetts

    Mommy’s Wrist

    Mommy’s Wrist
    Estimated time to read 4 minutes

    Many new moms (and some dads) find themselves dealing with frustrating and debilitating thumb and wrist pain. As if new parents don't have enough to deal with, the condition often referred to as "mommy wrist" manifests in the form of aching, throbbing, and swelling in the wrists and hands. It might also involve sensations of numbness, pins, and needles, or even burning.

    While it is easy to brush off these symptoms as an occupational hazard that comes with motherhood, if left unaddressed for too long, they can lead to more serious complications. The last thing any mother wants is to be put out of commission by a surgery which could be avoided!

    In this blog post, we're talking about the underlying causes of mommy wrist pain and what you can do about it.

    What is Mommy’s Wrist or Quervain’s Tendonitis?

    Mommy's Wrist or Quervain's Tendonitis is an inflammation of the tendons around the wrist and thumb, usually caused by overuse or repetitive motions. The tiny motions of the little finger, thumb, and wrist can cause one to experience pain that persists throughout the day.

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    This condition is also referred to as baby wrist or mommy thumb and can cause pain and swelling in the affected area, sometimes accompanied by difficulty moving the wrist and thumb. Treatment for "mommy thumb" most often involves rest, physical therapy exercises, splints to support the wrist, and in some severe cases, pain relievers or steroid injections.

    Mommy's wrist gets its name because it often results from mothers who are holding babies in awkward positions, whether holding them to rock them to sleep, carrying a heavy car seat, breastfeeding, or any of the other things we do as moms. This is why it also affects some dads since they’re increasingly playing this role. 

    But there are slight changes that parents or pregnant women can make to help prevent or reduce symptoms.

    Mommy’s Wrist Symptoms

    Wondering if you have mommy's wrist? Here are five key symptoms many patients report experiencing, but keep in mind that not all women will necessarily have all five of these symptoms:

    Discomfort or inflammation at the base of the thumb and wrist

    Do you have thumb pain and pain on the thumb side of the wrist?

    Wrist squeaking or creaking

    Is there a squeaking sound emanating from the tendon in your wrist?

    Increasing intensity of pain

    Does the pain become more intense the more you use your hand, thumb or wrist?

    Feeling a catching or popping sensation

    Do you feel a catching or popping sensation when moving your thumb and wrist?

    Tingling sensation on the back of your hand

    Do you feel pain or have a tingling feeling or a sensation of "pins and needles" on the back of your hand or fingers?

    How is Mommy’s Wrist Diagnosed?

    Mommy's wrist can be diagnosed by a medical professional, such as an orthopedic doctor or a physical or occupational therapist either. A physical examination of the area is usually performed to evaluate any tenderness or swelling, and range of motion tests can assess any limitations in the joint.

    In some cases, X-rays may be taken to assess the extent of damage and rule out other causes such as fractures. In addition, an MRI scan may be done to provide detailed images of the soft tissues around the joint, which can help guide treatment options.

    How Can You Prevent Mommy Wrist Pain?

    The good news is that you can take some action to help prevent mommy's wrist. Here's how:

    1. Strengthen the wrists and thumbs

    Try exercises that strengthen both the wrists and the thumbs. This can be done through stretching, squeezing a ball or other object, lifting and rotating the wrists and thumbs in circles. This site provides some good exercises to practice.

    2. Use ergonomic devices when possible

    Use tools such as ergonomic keyboards and mice to reduce strain on your wrists when typing or using a computer mouse.

    3. Avoid repetitive movements and forceful gripping.

    Avoid repetitive movements of your hands and thumbs and forceful gripping to reduce strain on the muscles of the fingers and wrist. Be mindful of when you might be unintentionally tense, like gripping a steering wheel.

    4. Be mindful of how you hold baby

    There are certain ways to hold your new baby that put less strain on your wrist. Learn more here! Or if you’re struggling with neck and back pain, check out our video on Ergonomic Baby Holding.

    5. Watch how you're holding your phone

    New moms often spend a lot of time on their phones while feeding their baby. Research has found a higher prevalence of De Quervain's tenosynovitis symptoms in people with heavy smartphone use. Another study found an association between smartphone addiction and thumb and wrist pain.

    Treatment Options for Mommy’s Wrist

    So what can you do about mommy's wrist? Here are a few ideas to help relieve the pain:

    1. Wear a splint designed for carpal tunnel or de quervain's (sometimes called a thumb spica) that immobilizes the thumb and wrist. Make sure that you get the correct hand! Here's an example.
    2. Avoid repetitive movements of the hands and thumbs, as well as forceful gripping. Sometimes it is recommended to try and keep your hand in a fist while holding baby to change the way your hand muscles are strained. 
    3. Use ice to reduce inflammation and reduce pain.
    4. Try topical medications for pain relief like arnica.
    5. Ask for help with certain activities like opening jars and lifting in awkward positions where you repeatedly torque. Add a tool like this to your car seat
    6. Wear your baby in a carrier as much as possible to give your wrists and hands a break from bearing their weight. We love our MIA hipster! 
    7. Use over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications when necessary.
    8. Try chiropractic, massage, and/or acupuncture - find what works for you!
    9. Infrared light devices, PEMF, or spot Cryotherapy can also be effective if you have access to this type of support.
    10. Ask about corticosteroid injections in severe cases.
    11. In rare cases, consult with an orthopedic surgeon about surgical options if no other options are effective.

    Takeaway

    Mommy's wrist is a common but painful condition that many new parents face when adjusting to life with little ones. It can be hard to find time to address minor discomforts of mommy wrist, when you're busy with a baby, but it's important to take the time to take care of yourself, too!

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