Picking up and carrying around your new family member should bring about nothing but happiness and joy, however, most postpartum people are aware that having a baby often also brings about physical aches and pains.
One less talked about but common condition that postpartum people experience is called ‘Mommy’s Thumb.’ This condition, also called ‘De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis’, affects your thumb and wrist and can cause pain when using your hand. It’s been nicknamed Mommy’s Thumb because it effects so many postpartum women, but it can happen to pregnant people, other caregivers, and non-parents as well!
This thumb and wrist injury is called a repetitive use injury which means you are using certain muscles while performing certain movements too often. It effects two tendons of your thumb that get flared, achey, and sometimes swollen.
How do I make Mommy’s Thumb better at home?
1. Rest and Ice
Complete rest is tough when you’re a new parent, so do the best you can to take your thumb out of as many tasks as possible! When grabbing items, be mindful of how much you are gripping with your thumb and use the rest of your fingers instead. Avoid overdoing it on texting and smartphone use and ask for help when needed.
Icing for 15-20 minutes multiple times a day is a helpful way to reduce swelling in the thumb and wrist.
2. Modify the way you hold, pick up, and feed your baby
Try to avoid picking up your baby with your thumb and pointer finger in the shape of an ‘L’ under your baby’s armpits (see photo). Instead, try to keep your hands flat while picking up your baby and scoop them up instead. Make sure to scoot your baby as close to you as possible and brace your core muscles before picking them up.
Try to vary the ways you hold and feed your baby throughout the day to make sure your hand and wrist are getting plenty of varied positions.
3. Gently Exercise and Stretch
When tendons and tissues are upset, they want to be gently used and gently stretched.
Here is an example of a helpful gentle contraction of the inflamed tendons called an isometric. Try the following:
- Bring your affected thumb to your hand.
- Use your fingers on your other hand to gently press against your thumb.
- Meet the resistance of your fingers as if you are trying to move your thumb away from your hand, but your fingers are stopping you.
- Hold for 10 seconds, repeat 6 times total. Perform multiple times a day.
A good stretch for Mommy’s thumb is the following:
- Make a fist and close your thumb in your fist.
- With your other hand, passively stretch your wrist down toward the floor until you feel a stretch in your thumb and wrist.
- Hold for 30 seconds, as long as it is not painful. Perform 2-3 times a day.
4. Consider a Splint
Using a splint can be helpful to reduce your thumbs ability to move in ways that will further irritate it. A splint that keeps your thumb in a neutral position can be helpful to put on if it feels it is starting to get irritated. The splint linked here is a good example of one that will reduce the strain on your thumb.
5. See a Physical Therapist
If you have tried the above modifications and your thumb and wrist pain is not going away, see a Physical Therapist (PT) for additional help! A PT can evaluate your hand and treat it with massage, taping, strengthening, and further advice on how to modify the things you need to do every day.
If you are in the Portland area, give us a call at 503-295-2585 to schedule an appointment to get rid of your pain and help you function normally again! If you live outside Portland, Oregon, we do offer Telehealth visits which are a great way to get the benefits of seeing a PT from the comfort of your own home. You can also read our blog about “How to Find a Good PT” to find an experienced practitioner in your area.