Thursday, May 08, 2008

New Mom's - Watch Out for "Mommy Thumb" (deQuervain's Tendonitis)

You can put yourself at risk of developing repetitive stress injuries if you don't pick up your baby properly.

deQuervain's Tendonitis

New mothers are especially prone to this type of tendonitis: caring for an infant often creates awkward hand positioning, and hormonal fluctuations associated with pregnancy and nursing further contribute to its occurrence.

Last April (my baby was 2.5 months old) I recall seeing a discussion about someone's thumbs hurting and the next day it happened to me. In the space of one day I developed deQuervain's Tendonitis in both my wrists/thumbs. I had to go for physical therapy, take ibuprofen, ice my wrists, try to get my partner to give me wrist massages, wear hand braces and it severely limited what I was able to do.

It can evidently emerge slowly or all at once so you need to try to prevent it if you can. I don't know how common it is but it was very painful -- my thumbs felt like they were going to fall off for a bit that was how weak they were, small movements in the wrong direction would give me shriekingly bad pains running down into my hands, even while sleeping. I almost dropped him on the floor a couple times because it was so bad. It took about 6 months before my hands were significantly improved and that largely was related to my baby learning how to crawl.

Prevention Tips

* When picking up your baby try not to hook your hands under their arms to lift
* If you have to pick the baby up under the arms then bear the weight more on your hand and less on your thumb
* Try not to lift up your baby from lying down to upright using that hold as it increases the likelihood of injury (said my physical therapist)
* Lift your baby by cradling their head and butt with your forearms and lift that way.
* Try to limit how much you have to move the baby around -- don't go to the changing table if you can just do the diaper change where you are.

I had to severely limit how much I moved the baby around so diaper changes were whereever we were -- on the floor, on the bed, etc. I had to bail on handwashing dishes and I would have to have my partner assist with getting the baby into and out of the bath. I also started cosleeping full-time as it really helped cut down on the amount of carrying I had to do.

Here are some shots of my wrist brace, I got two but found I only needed to really wear it on my left wrist which was the more badly injured. The braces are totally worth it as the normal sleeping position of most people involves curling your hands in, a position that actually aggravates the condition. The braces help protect the inflamed and swollen area of the wrist and hold your hands in a neutral position. Ace bandages actually add pressure and contribute to more pain.

Oh, and I wanted to add that the doctor I consulted with, a hand specialist, said that they usually see this emerge in mothers of older infants/toddlers. My baby grew really fast though and I think that contributed to it -- my body couldn't adapt fast enough to the weight I was lifting.

Note: My health insurance didn't cover the physical therapy, plus it was just one more thing to try to manage to fit in with the baby that I could have done without. Do try to protect yourself and avoid developing this condition -- you will thank yourself later.

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