How to beat mommy thumb

Posted by Ben Simpkins on July 25, 2017

As if having a baby wasn’t hard enough, after 9 months of carrying your child/children, going through labour and birth then comes along an issue like mommy thumb, aka De Quervain’s condition.

This is where the tendons in the wrist become inflamed and cause a pain from the thumb leading into the wrist which is caused by them rubbing on the tunnel that they sit in, which can cause anything from a little discomfort to agonizing pain.

The way to test whether you have De Quervains is to tuck your thumb into the palm of your hand and bring the fingers over the top so you have made a first with the thumb in the middle. Now bend the wrist as if you are pushing your little finger down to the floor, the ligament by the thumb should now be stretching. If you feel pain around the thumb or in the wrist then you may have it.

Why it happens

One of the main issues is that the bodies hormones are all over the place due to the birth process and one of the big culprits is Relaxin. This hormones job is to increase the elasticity within ligaments and tendons to aid with natural birth but even after you have given birth to your child relaxin will stay circulating around your body for months. This means the ligaments in your thumbs and wrists are weaker and more mobile which allows them to stretch and rub which causes inflammation.

Unfortunately, you can’t just leave your baby for a couple of weeks as you will be feeding and lifting your baby up to 30 times a day so it never gets a chance to recover and heal which leads to it getting progressively worse.

What to do next?

If you believe you have mommy thumb then the best thing you can do is seek help as soon as possible as the longer you leave it the more damage it can do, if untreated at the time it can lead to the need of anti-inflammatory injections, physiotherapy or even surgery.

It can go by itself but this is rare. There are a few bits you can do at home to help keep the swelling down but if there is no sign of improvement then seek professional help visit your doctor so they can advise you on what the next procedure is.

Ways to treat at home

Pick your baby up differently – rather than picking your child up under the arms, attempt a scoop technique so the thumb stays tucked down rather than having the pressure of the baby resting between thumb and finger.

Stretch your wrist – Search online for hand gliding stretches and you will gain a tonne of different moves to perform which work on allowing a tendon to reach its maximum level of movement.

Rest – Tough one to do, but try to allow the wrist time to recover, when you are not holding your baby, ice the tendons and take anti-inflammatories to try to reduce the swelling.

Avoid your phone – Sliding, scrolling, swiping and tapping are going to put more pressure on the tendons around the thumb, try to only use it when you need to.

Check your breastfeeding position – It is easy to get into bad habits, especially when you are waking and feeding throughout the night, take time to ensure you are holding your baby correctly and try to keep pressure off your hand/thumb by using a pillow to support the baby if possible.

Splints – If you can set one of these around your thumb it will limit the range of movement available to the thumb and should reduce the amount of friction in the wrist. This will allow the inflammation a chance to reduce and let the tendons recover.

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