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Wrist and Thumb Pain After Pregnancy

Posted by Eqphysio on 28 September 2018
Wrist and Thumb Pain After Pregnancy

Your baby has been born, and now you want to work on recovering from the pregnancy and birth, right?

  • Pelvic Floor - tick! You've started looking after that region and commenced exercises to strengthen and promote healing of the area.

  • Abdominal Muscles - tick! You understand the need to strengthen your core, build up your body's "natural corset" to allow the ligaments to heal as well as protecting your back from strain and resolving of any abdominal muscle separation (DRAM- see our previous blog).

  • Healthy bladder and bowel habits -tick!

BUT what about this WRIST pain that has just developed...  You're probably thinking "I wasn't warned about this!?"

Looking after your new bundle of joy may be taking a toll on all your joints, and the wrist is one of these joints that can become very painful after the birth of the baby.

This common condition is called De Quervain's Tenosynovitis or is also known as "Mummy's Thumb".

The covering of the tendons on the thumb side of the wrist become inflamed and swollen and rub against the surrounding encasement. During your pregnancy, the tendons and joints in your body become stretched and loose. After giving birth, these structures are still in this compromised state. When you add in the demands of looking after a baby, e.g. picking up and putting down a baby multiple times a day, these tendons can become aggravated and can result in severe pain and restricted wrist movements. Often mothers complain of difficultly lifting and holding their baby.


How can I help myself?

1. Rest and Ice

Try to avoid using your hands and wrists whenever practically possible. Applying ice packs or cold compressors over your wrists intermittently throughout the day may reduce the swelling and inflammation.

2. Modify certain activities:

  • Carry things in a bag over your shoulder or over your forearms, not in your hands.

  • When breast feeding try, to use a pillow to take baby's weight off your hands or use your forearm to support the baby's head instead of your hands.


  • Seek help with food preparation such as cutting of vegetables or even buy them pre-cut.

  • When lifting and holding baby try to avoid lifting baby with "hands-underneath-their-arms position". Instead, try scooping and holding, with one hand behind babies back and other on their bottom. Always make sure your wrists are straight when lifting and not sagging toward the ground as this position causes the tendons to stretch over the bone causing pain.

If you are unable to relieve your symptoms then consider seeing a physiotherapist. Do not try and live with the pain as it usually doesn't correct itself.

How can a Physiotherapist help?

1. Provide symptomatic treatment by using techniques such as massage, ultrasound and/or dry needling to help relieve the pain and muscle spasms.
2. Provide you with an exercise regime to strengthen the muscles of the hands and forearms so that they are strong enough to do the extra tasks required of them, particularly in the early post-partum phase while the ligaments are still lax.
3. Provide you with postural advice and alternate lifting techniques
4. Provide you with the correct splint if necessary, which will protect the thumb and wrist from further aggravation/injury and hence reduce the pain.




If we can help you with any of your wrist or post pregnancy symptoms, please feel free to contact us:

Phone: 9553 8145
1/45 Montgomery St, Kogarah NSW 2217

Tags:Musculoskeletal ConditionsPregnancy

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