It sounds bizarre, but wrist pain was one of the main complaints that I suffered with after having a baby. In fact it was so bad, that I struggled picking up and holding my daughter every day.
I never really thought that wrist pain may actually be a common complaint amongst new mums within the first year. I thought it was just me that was going through this very painful experience.
If you’re like most new mums, you spend a lot of time picking up and holding your baby. And while this is lovely for your little one, it may be taking its toll on your body, specifically your wrists. If you’ve recently given birth and are experiencing wrist pain, particularly when moving your thumbs or lifting your baby, you’re most likely suffering from DeQuervain’s tendonitis.
This type of wrist pain can occur at any time after birth, however many women start to have symptoms within two to three weeks after childbirth.
So what causes it?
There are several factors that are likely to contribute towards the pain, including extra weight and fluid retention from pregnancy, alongside your hormonal fluctuations. However it’s the constant lifting of your baby that is probably the biggest culprit.
The most important factor is the repetitive lifting of a baby with your wrists sagging towards the ground. The two tendons on the side of the wrist are responsible for moving the thumb. If they become swollen due to improper lifting, they can stretch over the wrist bone, causing you pain.
DeQuervain’s tendonitis is very common and is almost exclusive to women who have recently had a baby, as well as stay-at-home dads.
How to test if you have dequervains tendonitis?
With your hand positioned so the thumb is facing upwards, fold your thumb across the palm, then flex your fingers over the thumb into a gentle fist. To add a pull on the tendon, flex your wrist down towards the ground. You may then experience a very sharp pain within the wrist/thumb. (OUCH!)
(Photo – MendMeShop)
What treatment is there to help with the pain?
The first thing you want to do is make sure you’re lifting your baby properly by keeping your wrists straight and not letting them sag. This will prevent the tendons from over stretching and becoming inflamed.
Applying ice frequently can reduce swelling and pain, so can anti-inflammatories, however be sure to check with your doctor if you’re breastfeeding.
Immobilising your thumb and wrist, keeping them straight with a splint or brace to help rest your tendons.
Avoiding repetitive thumb movements as much as possible.
Avoiding pinching with your thumb when moving your wrist from side to side.
If you are finding that symptoms aren’t getting any better, cortisone injections can be extremely effective and is generally the optimal treatment. Normal activity may be resumed within three weeks after an injection. Surgery to release the tendon sheath is only rarely necessary and usually reserved for persisting inflammation after failure of at least one cortisone injection.
However – many wrist problems don’t actually originate from the wrist, and our physiotherapists find that poor movement and control in the neck, shoulder or ribcage can be significant contributing factors to wrist pain such as de Quervain’s and carpal tunnel syndrome. So if you’re not getting better with local treatment to the wrist (splints and ice etc) then it may be worth getting properly assessed to see if there’s something else going on.