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What is Mommy's Wrist?

Last Modified: December 07, 2020

Family Medicine, Sports & Exercise

Mommy's Wrist

Many mothers expect a normal period of recovery after having a baby, but wrist pain may not have been the first thing that came to mind. That aching wrist could be due to an ailment known as “Mommy’s Wrist.” This injury occurs when new moms or parents repeatedly twist their wrists and hands in awkward positions to pick up, hold and nurse their infants. Unfortunately, those tiny repetitive motions can add up over time, causing pain and discomfort. We asked Jodi Chambers, PA-C, Parkview Ortho Express, to explain what Mommy’s Wrist is and the best treatment options for those dealing with the injury.

What is Mommy’s Wrist?

Mommy’s wrist is tendonitis of the thumb extensor tendon. It occurs with repetitive movements of the hands and wrist. There are tendons inside the wrist that run in a tunnel. Over time and with overuse, the tendons can become inflamed and irritated.

Mommy wrist diagram

This type of injury often gets its name because we see it develop in new moms who are constantly picking up, carrying and feeding their child or infant. Lifting a child usually involves wrist flexion or the action of bending your hand down at the wrist, but overuse can cause pain and swelling. This ailment is particularly true for new moms or parents not used to picking things up in that way. Additionally, this type of tendonitis can also show up in other types of patients, including factory workers and nurses who start IVs often.

What are some symptoms of Mommy’s Wrist?

The first sign or symptom of this form of tendonitis is tenderness and pain in the wrist or at the thumb base, especially when lifting a child. Some individuals may also hear a squeaking sound, or tenosynovitis, coming from the tendon. Typically, the pain and discomfort get worse the more the thumb is moved and utilized. Many people may also feel pain when trying to perform other activities, like opening jars and turning doorknobs.

How is Mommy’s Wrist diagnosed?

A physician can perform a routine exam to help determine if tendonitis is causing the wrist pain. One way to confirm the diagnosis is by having the patient place their thumb in their palm and then wrapping the rest of their fingers around it, like making a fist with your thumb inside the other four fingers. Then, if you move your wrist downward, which extends the affected tendon, and feel pain, it’s likely that Mommy’s Wrist is the culprit.

What are the different treatment options?

A few options for treating tendonitis or Mommy’s Wrist may include:

  • Wearing a splint: This helps minimize thumb and wrist movement, allowing the inflammation in the tendon to subside.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications: Medications like ibuprofen and naproxen can help reduce pain and swelling in the tendon. Topical medications may help, as well.
  • Icing the affected area: Applying ice to your wrist and thumb can help dull the pain and reduce inflammation.
  • Injections: For symptoms that are unable to be controlled by other treatment options, Corticosteroid injections may be effective in getting rid of symptoms in many patients.

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