As Mother’s Day approaches, we extend a big thanks to all mothers. Many of these mothers have overcome sleepless nights, chronic exhaustion, worry, heartbreak when a child is sick or ill, or endless chauffeur and carpool duties – all while trying to raise healthy, well-adjusted and kind children.
Mothers often fill many roles including nurse, seamstress, teacher, housekeeper, interior designer, family accountant, facilities director, life coach, groundskeeper and event planner. Of course there’s also the thankless role of head chef, which requires one to plan and cook healthy meals for small children who oftentimes don’t even want to eat the food that has been prepared! While a mother’s touch is just what a child needs, it’s no surprise when a mom, who is not just lifting a newborn, but possibly several other toddlers, car seats, diaper bags, dishes, bottles, and laundry baskets full of tiny clothes, begins to experience some wrist and thumb pain. Moms literally have their hands full!
This repetitive use of the upper extremities when lifting, nursing, changing diapers on a squirmy kiddo, and all those other tasks required of a mom, can start to take a toll, causing a condition commonly referred to as “Mommy Thumb” or if you want to be technical, deQuervain’s Tenosynovitis. This condition causes swelling in the tendons on the thumb side of the wrist, causing pain with movement, grasping or pinching. In modern times, cell phone use including scrolling, texting and swiping can cause further irritation. This condition was first described over 100 years ago in a washerwoman, by Fritz deQuervain. Women would experience pain in the base of their thumbs and wrists, after wringing out wet clothes and mechanically washing clothing on a washboard all day long. Luckily those days are over thanks to washing machines!
Whether you are a mom or not, if you start to feel pain, swelling, or tenderness on the thumb side of your wrist when you perform gripping or lifting your child – or if you want to try to prevent having that pain – here are a few suggestions from Athletico’s hand therapists:
If symptoms persist, you should talk with your OB/GYN or your primary care physician. Your physician could prescribe an anti-inflammatory that is safe for you and your baby if you are nursing. Physical and Occupational Therapy can also help! An Athletico hand therapist can give you a stretching program and tailored treatment regimen. They may also fabricate an orthosis to allow your thumb and wrist to rest. This will immobilize the thumb, but allow you to use your hand while reducing the swelling of the tendons to decrease discomfort. If used early and consistently, this will likely decrease your pain in a couple of weeks.
The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.
1. Meals, R., (2008) The Hand Owner’s Manual p.99-101.
2. Amanda Barrell, (2018) What is DeQuervain’s tenosynovitis? Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320914.php
3. Dashiell, A., & Anderson Lucia, C., Mother’s Thumb: How to Ease Wrist Pain After Pregnancy. Retrieved from https://www.parents.com/baby/new-parent/motherhood/mommy-thumb-5-ways-to-ease-the-pain/
4. van der Walt, R. (2016) How to Deal with Mommy Thumb. Retrieved from https://www.mother.ly/lifestyle/mommy-thumb
5. Jagroo, D., Mommy Thumb: Is this normal? Retrieved from https://beyondmom.com/mommy-thumb-normal/