WHY DOES MY THUMB HURT AFTER HAVING A BABY?

De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis.
Even though the name is a mouthful, it is actually a very common and painful complaint experienced OFTEN by new mums. It is a repetitive strain disorder of the thumb caused by continuously lifting your growing bub. In this blog we will navigate what it is, how iT happens, and how to fix it.

de quervains tenosynovitis

Looking at the picture above:

The muscles that move your thumb, turn into tendons (left arrow), which are wrapped in a sheath (right arrow) when they travel across your wrist. When you use your thumb to squeeze, lift, or grip anything in your hand, the two tendons that pass through this sheath are activated. Normally, this movement is nice and smooth because you have something called synovial liquid (middle arrow) which helps the tendons slide along the small tunnel. When new mum’s have De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis, the tendons and sheath become irritated and inflamed from repetitive movements, leading to pain and weakness.

COMMON SYMPTOMS ARE:
  • Pain near and around the base of your thumb
  • Difficulty or weakness lifting and grasping
  • Pain while lifting your baby or using your phone
  • Feeling like your thumb gets stuck or locks while moving
WHY IT HAPPENS AFTER HAVING A BABY:
  • Thumb and wrist pain is common during and after pregnancy because you might experience more swelling in your arms and legs.
  • A hormone called relaxin is released during pregnancy to allow for your ligaments to relax in your pelvis in preparation for your baby’s growth and birth. This hormone however, relaxes the ligaments around your whole body which can lead to joint instability and hyper-mobility. The effects of the relaxin hormone can last in the body for a few months after your baby has been born, which means that your joints and soft tissues can still be unstable and more likely to be affected by repetitive strain injuries.
  • Your new baby is growing quickly and being picked up and held constantly, which can cause irritation of the muscles and tendons of the thumb, wrist and elbow.
YOU CAN HELP IT BY:
  • Avoid using your thumb
    This doesn’t mean stop using your thumb altogether! It just means to try and use other muscles more so that you can give your thumb a bit of a break.  When lifting your baby, try and keep your thumbs in beside your hand, with a sort of flat hand approach behind their back, rather than having your thumbs separate from the rest of your fingers.
    When using your phone, try and hold the phone with one hand, and press the screen using the index finger of the other hand.
  • Ice or heat therapy. The general rule we use at the clinic is: If it is hot, swollen or bruised use ice (making sure you have the ice covered and it is not directly on the skin). For all other complaints, use heat (making sure it is not too hot on your skin).
  • Thumb strengthening exercises.
    My favourite easy exercise for thumb strengthening is to roll up a thick pair of socks, rest your forearm on a table and place the socks in your hand. Gently and slowly squeeze the sock with all your fingers and thumb, and then relax. Repeat 10 times, once or twice a day to begin with.
  • Self massage
    Massaging using a cream or oil (which has been previously approved for you to use by chemist or health professional) through your thumb, wrist and forearm can help relieve some of your thumb pain.
  • Using tape or a brace
    Rocktape can help with swelling and also provide more support to your wrist and thumb. Wrist and thumb braces can also help manage your pain by restricting the movement through your thumb while you’re using it.
  • Seek help!!
    It is really important with these kind of complaints that you seek help from an experienced health care professional. Tendon injuries do not have a great blood supply and can take longer to heal than other injuries, especially when you can’t completely rest your thumb and avoid the aggravating factors. This is why it is really important to seek help early and get the right treatment and management for your thumb pain so that you can get back to caring for your bub pain free.

Osteopathic treatment can be a great way to relieve common aches and pains experienced by new mums! If you have any more questions about how we at Total Balance can help you care for yourself and your new bub, please give us a call on (03) 97738085

 

Dr. Megan Brooks (Total Balance Healthcare)

DISCLAIMER: THIS BLOG POST IS AN EDUCATIONAL TOOL ONLY.  IT IS NOT A REPLACEMENT FOR MEDICAL ADVICE FROM A REGISTERED AND QUALIFIED DOCTOR OR HEALTH PROFESSIONAL.

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