Being a mom is hard enough without unnecessary hand and thumb pain. Can you imagine wrangling a toddler with hands that don’t work correctly? It would be a nightmare, not to mention a huge safety risk to your kids!
So, why worry about mommy thumb? Well, this hand condition could cause you to lose grip on your child when you pick him or her up, putting them in danger. Unfortunately, moms everywhere have learned what mommy thumb is, the hard way.
Two Thumbs Down
So what is mommy thumb? Mommy thumb, or De Quervain’s Tendonitis, is when a tendon in your thumb called the flexor tendon becomes swollen and painful. To move your thumb, the flexor tendon has to slide beneath a tendon sheath, which is like a tunnel, in your finger. When that tendon is swollen, it becomes enlarged, and it can’t fit through the sheath. Using your thumb as you normally would when it is so inflamed causes even more swelling, more pain, and less range of motion.
The Mommy Thumb Experience
You might be experiencing mommy thumb if you notice anything like:
- Chronic pain around the thumb area
- Thumb spasms
- Thumb tenderness
- Occasional burning sensation felt in the hand
- Swelling over the thumb side of the wrist
- Difficulty gripping objects
- Restriction or “sticking” sensation in the thumb or wrist when you move it
Mommy thumb affects females far more than males. About 50% of new mothers will develop this problem.
Mommy thumb tends to develop during and after pregnancy, but not always. Some women even begin noticing symptoms of mommy thumb during menopause. Experts suggest that hormonal changes and fluid retention play a role in the development of this condition. It can also be caused by the daily routines of many new moms. The motion that is perhaps the most distressing to your thumbs and thumb joints as a new mother could be something you probably would never think of lifting your child.
Most people pick children up by positioning their thumbs beneath the child’s underarms on either side and grasping the shoulder blades with the other fingers. This way of lifting puts tremendous strain on your thumbs and tendons because they are supporting almost all of the child’s weight.
As a mom, it probably doesn’t occur to you to think about using good, ergonomic form when you pick up your toddler or infant. But like any other physically demanding job, being a mother can cause you to really hurt yourself if you aren’t paying attention.
Under Your Thumb
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent thumb damage if you get in the habit of paying attention to how you move. You can still lift your kids; all you need is a little change in your technique!
The key to lifting your child in a safe and ergonomic manner is how you position your hands. You should lift with both of your upward-facing palms beneath the child’s arms. Many times you only have one free hand, so be sure to switch off in order to avoid overusing one or the other.
Oops, Too Late for Prevention?
Prevention is always the best solution, but it’s not always an option. If you develop mommy thumb, or if you notice increasing thumb pain, you’ll need to see a hand specialist for treatment. The Hand Surgery Specialists of Texas is a group of highly trained hand specialists who are focused on performing minimally invasive procedures to relieve a series of hand and wrist problems, including mommy thumb. Because mommy thumb very closely resembles other hand and wrist conditions, you need a hand and wrist specialist or orthopedic hand surgeon to determine the underlying problem. Treating the incorrect problem can cause just as much damage as no treatment at all.
Most hand surgeons, once they diagnose your thumb pain as mommy thumb, will probably recommend a combination of the following for treatment:
- Thumb spica splint – splinting
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Avoid overuse and strain
- Gentle stretching and massage
- Cortisone steroid injection
De Quervain’s Tendonitis, or mommy thumb, is something you should deal with immediately if you think you’re having symptoms. Any kind of hand pain should be monitored closely for signs of progressing. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms described above, make an appointment with the Hand Surgery Specialists of Texas today!