Wrist Tendonitis Common Issue Among New Mothers

Painful overuse injury is caused by repeatedly picking up baby

DAYTON, Ohio (December 10, 2015) – New mothers who consider sleep deprivation, dirty diapers and midnight feedings as their rite of passage into parenthood, may also end up adding sore thumbs to the list.

Wrist tendonitis is a very common overuse injury that new mother’s experience. The painful condition – which occurs when the tendons that stretch across the thumbs become inflamed – is often referred to as “mommy’s thumb,” says Beth Berrettoni, MD, a hand surgeon with Hand and Reconstructive Surgeons & Associates in Centerville.

“Wrist tendonitis is very much activity related and I have seen quite a few new mothers come in with this issue,” says Dr. Berrettoni, who practices with Premier Health Specialists. “Mothers develop wrist tendonitis when they are repeatedly picking up their baby by placing their hands under the baby’s armpits and lifting.”

Tendons are cords that come off the muscle and run and attach to the bone. When a muscle contracts or shortens, it pulls on that cord and causes a part of the body to move. The tendons that cross the wrist cause the wrist or one of the fingers or thumbs to move. Tendonitis is when a tendon becomes inflamed, which means it is irritated, swollen and red, she says.

“Mommy’s thumb” is a specific type of tendonitis that is often called De Quervain’s tendonitis. De Quervain’s tendons are the ones that specifically move the thumb and that cross over the wrist, which can cause the pain to be felt near the thumb or around the wrist. Women develop this type of tendonitis as a result of positioning their thumb under a baby’s armpits when picking them up.

The National Institute of Health Off Site Icon (NIH), offers the following advice for those who develop wrist tendonitis:

Assess your symptoms – Wrist tendonitis is characterized by the following symptoms: Pain on the back of the thumb when a fist is made, something is grabbed or when the wrist is turned; numbness in the thumb and index finger; swelling of the wrist; and stiffness when moving the thumb or wrist.

Treat the symptoms – Ice your wrist for 20 minutes of every hour while awake. Be careful not to apply ice directly to the skin. For pain, use ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), naproxen (Aleve or Naprosyn) or acetaminophen (Tylenol).

Rest and stabilize – Rest the affected area by stabilizing it with a splint. The NIH recommends it remain stable for at least one week. Once the wrist is able to move without pain, it is important to do light stretching that can help strengthen the wrist again.

Seek professional advice – Seek professional advice from a doctor if the pain does not improve or becomes worse, if the wrist becomes stiff, and if there is increasing numbness or tingling in the wrist and fingers or if they turn white or blue.

Specialists like Dr. Berrettoni are able to assess individual needs and decide what type of treatment is right including therapy or, in some cases, surgery. Treatment can be different for new mothers who are nursing their babies such as avoiding steroid injections. However, in most cases, braces can be created to fit a mother according to how her hand should form when she picks up her baby.

“Typically as the baby grows, the way you hold the baby changes,” Dr. Berrettoni says. “So for a lot of new mothers, their problem may resolve over time.”

For more information on wrist tendonitis or to find a Premier Health Specialists physician near you, visit www.premierhealthspecialists.org/obgyn.

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