mother holding baby's hands

What Is Mommy’s Wrist, and How Can It Be Treated?

As a new mother, you expected to be a bit sleep-deprived and sore in those first few weeks, but you never imagined that your wrists would start hurting. Why is this happening, and is there anything you can do to lessen the pain you feel in your thumb and wrist? You’re experiencing Mommy’s Wrist (or Mommy Thumb, as it is sometimes called), which is a condition mothers develop from repetitive awkward movements involved with picking up, holding, and nursing an infant.

We know how precious parenthood is, and we want to help you enjoy every moment with your new little one. If you’re suffering from Mommy Wrist, all hope is not lost. With some treatment and exercises, you can regain use of your thumb and wrist without pain once again.

The Science Behind Mommy’s Wrist

Mommy’s Wrist is a condition called de Quervain’s tenosynovitis. This long name is used to describe a type of tendonitis in the wrist that is common in caregivers of young children (hence, the nickname “Mommy’s Wrist”). It causes pain in the base of the thumb and wrist as the thumb is extended or used. It can make activities like opening baby food jars, lifting a child, or changing diapers painful.

How does Mommy Thumb develop? You may begin to experience pain on the thumb side of your wrist when you repeatedly make the same hand motions. There are a series of tendons that extend from your thumb to your wrist, and as you move through the same actions over and over, these tendons become irritated. They will swell and make specific movements painful. If you have developed Mommy’s Wrist, you may also feel a cyst or bump near the base of your thumb.

Symptoms of Mommy’s Thumb

How do you know if you’ve developed Mommy’s Wrist? The following symptoms could indicate you are suffering from this form of tendonitis:

  • Pain or swelling at the base of your thumb and in your wrist, especially when you lift a child or turn a doorknob
  • Squeaking sound coming from the tendon in your wrist
  • Pain intensifies the more you use your thumb
  • Catching or popping sensation when you move your thumb
  • Tingling on top of your hand

How Is Mommy’s Wrist Diagnosed?

Mommy’s Wrist can be diagnosed in the doctor’s office from a history and physical exam. Your physician may order an x-ray to rule out arthritis and a wrist fracture. You’ll likely have to perform Finkelstein’s test to confirm the diagnosis of Mommy Thumb. During this test, you’ll be instructed to make a fist with your four fingers folded over your thumb. Then, you’ll be asked to tilt your wrist towards the side of your pinky finger. If you have Mommy’s Wrist, this movement can be very painful.

Treatment Options for Mommy’s Wrist

The good news is that de Quervain’s tendonitis (or Mommy’s Wrist) often improves with time and a bit of rest. This means that surgery isn’t necessary for many pregnant women and mothers. Your doctor may recommend a few non-surgical treatment plans, such as:

  • Wearing a splint to immobilize the thumb and wrist to reduce pain
  • Avoiding repetitive thumb and hand movements as well as forceful gripping to reduce the inflammation of the tendons
  • Taking anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or Tylenol
  • Receiving corticosteroid injections to reduce common Mommy Wrist symptoms

If these non-invasive methods do not heal your Mommy Thumb, your doctor may suggest outpatient surgery. During the procedure, your orthopedic specialist will make a small incision on the swollen tunnel (or sheath) covering the tendons to allow them to glide without pain. Recovery may take a few weeks, but it’s rare for Mommy’s Wrist to make another appearance after surgery.

Healing Mommy’s Wrist

If left untreated, Mommy’s Wrist can detract from the joyous experience of motherhood. Thankfully, you can rely on our orthopedic specialists in Bucks County and the surrounding areas to relieve your pain from this unfortunate condition. We have extensive training in de Quervain’s tenosynovitis and will help you find the relief you deserve. Get in touch with the best hand and wrist surgeons and specialists in Philadelphia today!

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