A fancy name for really sore wrists
A new mother's life is full of changes to mind, body, and routine. One thing that is almost always a shock to the system is the amount of lifting and carrying new mothers suddenly need to do, moving baby from cot to pram to changing table and back again. In some cases a repetitive strain injury called tenosynovitis (or tendonitis) can develop – it is caused by chronic overuse and thickening of the tendons that run down your thumbs. This thickening of both tendon and sheath means painful movement as secondary inflammation sets in. This painful condition is called deQuervain's Syndrome, though you might have heard of it as 'Mother's Wrist', 'Mummy Thumb', or even 'Washer Woman's Syndrome!'
What does deQuervain's feel like?
Those affected will feel pain in the thumb, the side of the wrist and hand, even down into the forearm. There is often also swelling on the thumb side of the wrist, sharp and/or chronic pain when moving the wrist and thumb, and weakness in grip strength in one or both affected hands. Continuing to try and push through the pain, repeating the same movements without treatment, will only make things worse.
Mothers with this pain and inflammation will usually find difficulty with:
- Twisting of the wrist, like when screwing in a screw or opening a bottle top
- Holding the thumb away from the palm and fingers, like during typing, playing the piano, even sports like bowling and golf
- Moving your hands about your wrists, like in sewing or knitting
- Lifting while gripping, like when pouring from a jug or picking up your baby!
Why have I developed these sore wrists?
Incidence of deQuervain's syndrome is higher among women in their child bearing and rearing years, especially in pregnancy and in the early postnatal period. It is thought that several factors contribute to this, from repeated lifting of the infant using the thumbs as leverage and tilting the wrists towards the thumb side, to hormonal changes and increased fluid retention.
This movement of the wrist lifting is the cause of the injury and looks much like the way any new mum would pick up her baby repeatedly.
How can a physio help with deQuervain's?
A physio can assist with managing the inflammation and offering braces and supports for the wrist during the painful time. Afterall, you still need to use your hands and forearms as you continue to care for your bub. Diagnosis of this pain is very simple and can be confirmed with simple feeling of the painful tendons and the Finkelstein test pictured below. You could almost assess yourself to see if you could be suffering from early signs of deQuervain's by following this simple movement.
If you think your might have deQuervain's Syndrome, it is very important that you do not ignore it.
Book in with one of our experienced Physiotherapists as soon as you can! We can offer a mix of the following treatments to allow the tendons to begin their healing and to therefore become less painful and inflamed. We can:
- provide hands-on treatment, and provide you with gentle, targeted exercises that can relieve the pain.
- most importantly, teach you how to perform your everyday tasks in a less stressful manner, so the strain isn't repeated over and over, exacerbating the symptoms.
- prescribe wrist splints for resting the wrist or for allowing movement in a less stressful way to the tendons for your daily activities of looking after your baby.
- suggest anti-inflammatories to help you manage secondary inflammation and the associated pain, or cold packs applied to the area for 20 minutes a few times per day.
DeQuervain's Syndrome is something that should be treated right away, and it can be identified quickly and treated relatively hassle-free. So let us know if your thumbs and wrists start to feel different, so we can get you back on track to helping your bub in an easy, pain-free way.