Mamas: raise your hand if you routinely hold your newborn in one arm while refreshing your email with your other thumb or incessantly scrolling through WellRounded’s Instagram feed. If you do, you may have experienced an occasional little twinge of pain at the base of your thumb.
But that twinge could be much worse: you could develop the carpal tunnel of new moms: de Quervain’s syndrome, also referred to as “Mommy Thumb.” Defined as a painful condition affecting the tendons on the thumb side of your wrist, it will probably hurt when you turn your wrist, grasp anything or make a fist.
It is said to be brought on by repetitive motions that are all part of motherhood: picking the baby up, holding them with your thumb stretched out, breastfeeding and, sadly, performing all other tasks with your dominant hand when you’ve shifted holding the baby to the other side. This includes a new stressor of our modern day era: texting, emailing, scrolling on our smart phones. All initiated by the mighty thumb.
To prevent the condition from getting worse for you, here are 5 suggestions of how to change your daily routine, as well as 5 exercises that you can do at home, to strengthen your hands.
5 Ways to Change your Routine:
- If you own a smart phone with a thumb print unlock system, make sure to add a second or more prints to avoid using the same thumb over and over again.
- Whenever you are scrolling, refreshing and opening items on your smart phone, do it with your index finger. Put the phone down, unlock and use your index finger. It sounds like it’s not a big deal but it will save your thumb from agonizing pain.
- Avoid the ‘L’ position of your thumb and index finger. Instead try keep the thumb close to the palm of your hand when performing any repetitive activity like picking up the baby, to create more of a cupping movement
- Ice the base of your thumb regularly, as soon as symptoms occur.
- Use your non-dominant hand for activities that aren’t potentially dangerous, such as brushing your teeth, reaching for items like your coffee cup, eating snacks that don’t require silverware and anytime you instinctively do a motion that is one-handed.
5 Exercises to Strengthen the Base of your Palm and Wrists:
- Flexing the wrist with or without a weight. With your palm facing up, make a fist and flex your wrist towards you and down away from you. Once you feel comfortable doing this without a weight, you could add a can of beans/corn/chickpeas. Do 3 sets of 10, going through the motion slow and controlled.
- Tie a kitchen towel to a door handle or secure in a different place that won’t move. Wrap one end of the towel around your hand and standing sideways pull the towel towards you until it is taught. Hold here for 30 seconds with your elbow tucked to your side. Do 3 sets.
- Hold your hands out in front of you, like you would push into a wall. Slowly rotate your wrists clockwise and then counter clockwise. 2 sets of 10 in each direction.
- Press your palms into one another like you are praying and extend your elbows out to the side. Now rotate your palms out as if pointing at something and back to the starting position. 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
- After all these exercises and throughout the day, make sure to stretch your wrists. With the palm facing up, push your fingers down towards your wrist and until you feel a nice stretch in your forearm. Then reverse and keep your palm facing down while you push your fingers down and towards the wrist. You will feel a nice stretch on the outside of your forearm. Do 2 sets of 30 second holds in each direction.
I hope that you will never have to experience de Quervain’s syndrome or Mommy Thumb. Make sure to adjust repetitive motion as soon as you feel the slightest pain because once it develops into full-fledged tendinitis it is among the most painful conditions that I have witnessed in new mothers.
Please, as always, share your experiences, thoughts and requests for new topics with us in the comments.