Q&A With Dr. Aliya: What Is “Mother’s Wrist”?

Is motherhood becoming a pain in your wrists? You may be suffering from this common condition

Q.  I’ve recently noticed an intense pain in my right wrist particularly in the area between my thumb and forearm. It becomes increasingly painful when I’m picking up my 3 month old. Should I be concerned? Is there anything I can do?

A. From the description of your symptoms it sounds like you may have a condition called de Quervain’s Tenosynovitis or as it’s 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). 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, physical therapist or family physician 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.

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 and supporting the back of his head with the other.

Check breastfeeding position

Many women report that breastfeeding can irritate an already painful wrist. 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.

Rest and 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. 

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.

Consult with a health practitioner

A chiropractor, physical therapist or MD can help guide your treatment and recovery. Often this condition takes some time to get better, so be patient with yourself and your body. 

Do you have a question you want answered? Email us at editor@thebabypost.com!

A health practitioner, chiropractor and acupuncturist with a distinct integrative care approach, Aliya brings extensive experience in peri-natal and pediatric wellness to her clinical practice at Restore Integrative Health in Toronto. She is also an avid runner, yoga instructor and new mother.

Follow her on Twitter @AliyaVisramDC or on Instagram @DrAliyaVisramDC

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