New Mommy Wrist Pain

by Elizabeth on June 1, 2011

DeQuervain’s Tenosynovitis

Mommy wearing her Moby Wrap to give her wrists relief.

No one tells you how challenging becoming a new mom can be.  During my first three months of motherhood the sleep deprivation, nursing struggles and isolation were harder than I ever imagined.  Just as the transition became manageable, I began experiencing throbbing pain in my wrist that would wake me up at night.

As my daughter’s weight increased the discomfort in my left wrist worsened.  I began sifting through my orthopedic massage books and discovered I had DeQuervain’s Tenosynovitis, commonly referred to as DeQuervain’s syndrome or tendonitis.  This condition causes painful inflammation resulting from chronic overuse of the tendons and sheaths on the thumb side of the wrist.

As new moms we are often carrying a baby in our dominant arm, as we complete all of life’s work with our non-dominant arm.  We learn to cook dinner, brush our teeth, email and vacuum all using one side of the body.  The constant lifting and carrying of an increasingly heavy baby is hard on the wrist.  If you are experiencing this pain or looking to avoid DeQuervain’s here are a few tips to get you through this new mommy wrist pain.

Immobilize the affected wrist: It seems impossible to stop lifting or carrying your baby, but finding tools to help with the work can alleviate some of the overuse.

  • Immobilize with a Wrist Brace: although there are many options online, often you can find a suitable brace at your local grocery or drug store, giving you the ability to test it out first.
  • Start holding your baby on the opposite side.  This can be difficult, but will pay off as your baby becomes a heavy toddler.
  • Use a baby carrier that is ergonomically comfortable and that your baby is happy in.  I had four carriers that I used for different situations.  The Moby Wrap and ERGObaby were my top choices.  Both distribute the weight on the body well and are comfortable for infants (ERGObaby has an infant insert).
  • Nursing support is important to lessen the strain on the neck, shoulders, arms and wrists.  Invest in a nursing pillow from Boppy or MyBrestFriend.

Decrease Inflammation

  • Ice Baby, Ice.  It takes time and won’t be enjoyable, but is the best treatment.  The best method I found was to take a tall pitcher and fill it with ice water, lots of ice.  Each night I would soak my arm for 7 minutes, dry off and rest for 3 minutes, repeating 3 times.  All of the muscles of your forearm and the connection at your elbow are inflamed.  By soaking up to the elbow you are treating the entire area.
  • Massage to the forearms will bring healthy blood back into the surrounding area and will help to maintain proper biomechanical balance.  If you can, GET A MASSAGE – do it monthly, mothering is HARD WORK.  Self forearm massage is also a beneficial option.
  • Cortisone shots are the last resort and can be administered by a Doctor.

Relax and Take a Deep Breath: the number one thing I am sure I forgot to do as a new mom is relax.  Stress makes all body ailments harder on the body.  If you can take time for yourself everyday to de-stress, your wrists will thank you.

Mommy wearing her wrist brace at Thanksgiving with her 6 month old.

Reference: Lowe, Whitney. Functional Assessment in Massage Therapy. 1997. Orthopedic Massage Education & Research Institute.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

hks July 26, 2011 at 5:17 pm

i have new mommy elboy pain on my left side – is that weird? i think it is due to carrying my chubby little munchkin! :)

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Elizabeth July 26, 2011 at 10:43 pm

Elbow pain does not sound fun. When I had my wrist pain I could see the way I was carrying Louisa, sort of balanced on my wrist with it always in some contorted position. This was a major contributor to the pain. You probably carry Charlie up higher, which makes sense because he is heavy now! You need a good massage Mama!

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Ilaria December 4, 2012 at 1:22 pm

I am experiencing severe wrist pain since three days and have a 5 months old baby. This article helped a lot! Thank you! Now I go to cool the wrist with some ice.

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