“Baby Wrist” – How To Find Relief

01 Sep “Baby Wrist” – How To Find Relief


In the early days after giving birth, you are incredibly busy, and incredibly exhausted. You have this tiny little bundle of joy that has constant needs that you must attend to. You are picking up this tiny little bundle, sometimes 25 to 30 times per day. And you must do this carefully, because for the first 10-12 weeks, your tiny little bundle is unable to hold up their own head. You start to notice some pain in your wrist, on your thumb side. This gets progressively worse, it hurts when you lift your baby, when you turn your hand, when you hold anything, or make a fist. You have developed baby wrist or mummy’s thumb, or in the medical world, what we call De Quervain’s tenosynovitis.

This occurs when repetitive movement causes the tendons that attach muscles to the thumb to rub against the sheath that encloses them, this becomes inflamed and causes pain. It sometimes starts when you are pregnant, but then the demands of caring for your baby can aggravate the condition.

Does this sound like what’s happening for you?

So, what can you do about it?

  1. Lift your baby ‘one handed’

Well, not really one handed, but instead of lifting from under each arm, place one hand under baby’s back and the other on baby’s front when you lift. This will avoid the L shape made by the thumb and fingers when lifting from under the arms. (Incidentally, if you also turn your baby onto their side and lean them forward onto your front hand, this will help them to develop head control. Try to do it through both their left and right sides.)

  1. Breastfeeding

Avoid sustained postures of the wrist. This can be difficult, particularly in the early days, when you are trying hard to get a good latch, and don’t want to move anything once they are on. I had difficulty breastfeeding all three of my children, and once they were latched, I did not want to move a muscle! So, just do your best, try to be aware of avoiding that L position of your thumb and fingers, using a breastfeeding pillow will help.

  1. Ice

Ice massage can give some relief from the pain, and you could talk to your Doctor (especially if you are breastfeeding) about if you are able to take an anti-inflammatory medication.

  1. Rest/Splint

A splint that immobilises the thumb can be very helpful in decreasing the inflammation caused by movement of the thumb. Although, this can be impractical when you are trying to care for a newborn. It might be better to get your physiotherapist to apply strapping tape to help you to minimise thumb and wrist movement.

If you have tried all of these options and you still find that pain persists, make an appointment to see your Physiotherapist or GP.

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