Mom Wrist

What is mom wrist?

Mom wrist is medically known as De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, but is commonly known as swelling of the thumb tendons in the thumb and wrist caused by repetitive motion.

This is caused by the overextension or flexing the wrist too much while picking up, carrying or rotating the wrist to take care of your baby. If this is not not addressed properly it can lead to carpal tunnel, keep you from making a fist, hurt whenever you turn your wrist and make it difficult to grasp anything.

how to avoid/helpful tips

  • The most effective way to avoid this is to keep your forearm, wrist and hand in a straight line while feeding your baby a bottle, grasping your breast to assist with breastfeeding, changing a diaper and opening a door.

  • Take frequent breaks from holding up the baby’s head.

  • Don’t death grip when you hold things- loosen your grip!

  • When in a plank position, elevate your hands with a board so that they are at a 10 degree angle rather than flat on the ground.

  • You could also try carrying the child with both arms to lower the amount of pressure or use a baby carrier.

  • When pushing a stroller, place your palms on the top of the handles and keep your wrists at neutral.

Exercises to strengthen the area of concern

When completing these exercises remember to not pull your thumb so far back as to hurt it. At first, try these exercises without weight and once that begins to feel too easy you can move onto using weight or using a resistance band to increase the strength of your thumb/wrist.

  • Place your hand flat on a table. Gently move your affected thumb up and away from the table surface and slowly bring it back to the table. Repeat 10 times for 3-5 times/day.

  • Place your hand vertically so that your fingers are pointing straight ahead like you’re reaching for a handshake.  With your other hand, gently lift your affected thumb towards you and then back in line with your fingers. Repeat 10 times for 3-5 times/day.

  • Place your affected wrist and forearm on the end of a table with your thumb pointing upwards. Your hand should be hanging off the side of the table, while your forearm and wrist are supported by the table. Gently lower your hand downward below the table edge until you start to feel discomfort. Then use your other hand to bring your hand back up in line with your wrist.

  • Use an elastic band (i.e rubber band, hair band) and place your fingers inside. Stretch the rubber band by extending your fingers slowly.  Repeat 10 times for 3-5 times/day.

  • Take some play dough or a stress ball and work on your finger strength in general. Squeeze and hold, then release slowly.

Stretches FOR when you have some free time during the day and before bed

These stretches are important to do with both hands, even if you only have pain in one wrist. Complete these stretches 1-2 times a day. Perform each repetition for 5-10 secs.

  • Thumb Taps: Take your thumb and tap the base of the fingers on the same hand

  • Prayer Hands: Place your hands in the typical prayer position, pressing your wrists together enough to feel some pressure. Then rotate up and down slowly. When your fingers are pointed at the ground try to raise your elbows up as high as possible without the bottom of your hands coming apart.

  • Wrist Rolls: Interlock your fingers, then rotate your hands in small controlled circles. Once you have gone one direction for a couple repetitions, then switch directions.

  • Finger Spreads: Start with your hands in a half fist and then stretch your fingers as far apart as you can. When you have hit the end range of the finger stretch hold it there for a count of two.

  • Pull Down: Take one hand and face the palm away from your body, fingers pointing up towards the ceiling. Use your other hand and pull the fingers and palm back slowly. Pull it back for 3 seconds and then release a little bit, then take a deep breath and release it and pull it back further. Once that hand feels stretched, switch to the other one.

What can I do?

To help relieve the pain, you should rest your wrist in the neutral position as much as possible. If resting your wrist in neutral is not working after awhile, then try a small splint or brace to stabilize it. Also, to reduce some of the inflammation you can massage some of the swelling out with your other hand. Apply some lotion to the area and press the inflammation towards your elbow/ heart.

You can also try warm and cool wrist baths to limit the inflammation. Or try an anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. (Side note: These are safe to take while breastfeeding, however ibuprofen is best because has the lowest amount transferred to your baby.)

The last resort a mama should turn to is corticosteroid injections, or to see a surgeon for surgery. I would only recommend this if you have already tried EVERYTHING and after awhile still are not seeing any improvement.

This is not something you can just wait out

Mom wrist can be extremely dangerous. We know that moms are very busy raising little angels, but self care is just as important. If you experience this only in one wrist, do not just use the other wrist to do things because it will only make both wrists injured. If you wait it out too long it could become a surgical problem and you will have even less time holding your precious child you just created.

For more resources, search #momwrist on instagram to get more tips from a physical therapist perspective.

Krystle Howald