Are you experiencing wrist and thumb pain after having your baby? It is a very
common complaint and like many other areas of the body, the wrists are
adapting to a whole new daily workload. Repetitive lifting of your baby, holding
baby in sustained positions (such as feeding), or simply carrying your newborn
around throughout the day are likely causes of upper limb overload. It often
starts as a niggly pain at the side of the wrist or thumb region but can soon
worsen to a constant ache with general weakness and create difficulty with
If this is the case, you may be experiencing de-Quervain’s Tenosynovitis. It is a
common painful condition that occurs due to repetitive overload of the thumb
tendons whilst the hand is in a grip position. This causes inflammation in the
surrounding tendon sheath at the side of the wrist. Local swelling restricts
tendon gliding in the tunnel and causes catching and pain. Usually a thickened
tender area develops at the thumb base and most gripping movements hurt.
The earlier you modify daily activities and treat the tenosynovitis the better!
Keep the thumb in line with the other fingers and avoid pulling the thumb
out wide to grip. The wrist should be kept neutral as often as possible.
You will need to scoop under baby whilst lifting and not grip around the
Ice the tendons for 15 minutes every couple of hours throughout the day
Wear a thumb splint to support the area. This will restrict movement and
allow healing. Your physiotherapist will recommend a suitable splint.
Ask for help with meal preparation, bathing baby and lifting tasks. Take
regular breaks with daily activities and spread tasks throughout the week.
The more you rest the thumb, the sooner it will heal. Remember that
tissues are weak when they are healing and can be easily aggravated
again with simple tasks.
Local anti-inflammatory creams may be helpful.
A thorough physiotherapy assessment and treatment plan should be
developed to assist with education, soft tissue therapy, splinting and pain
management. Graduated return to activity and re-strengthening programs
should follow to ensure that the condition does not re-occur.