Mommy thumb, or de Quervain's tenosynovitis, is a condition where the tendons on the outside of the thumb and wrist become inflamed and painful. The pain can be dull and achy, or even sharp. It is aggravated by the movement of the thumb away from the hand, cradling a baby's head, gardening, texting, lifting groceries, or any sustained or repetitive use of the thumb. This pain is known as "Mommy thumb" because it is most commonly experienced by women 1-2 months after giving birth from constantly cradling, nursing or feeding, and lifting their baby.
Since it can be difficult to truly rest the thumb, there are a number of treatments that can be helpful in managing and reducing symptoms. These include using a pillow to support the baby's head while nursing or feeding, wearing a baby carrier instead of constantly cradling the baby's head, wearing a wrist splint or brace to reduce stresses on the tendons, and using ice and/or pain relievers to reduce inflammation. A physical therapist can also evaluate hand and arm positioning with feeding, lifting, and holding the baby, and can recommend changes to reduce stresses on the thumb. Appropriate stretches can relax the thumb, hand and wrist, as well as soft tissue massage to the area can be very beneficial in reducing tension and pain.
~Tricia Serres, DPT, Physical Therapist