Wrist Pain in New Mums

Libby O'Sullivan

Being a new mum brings with it many challenges: recovering from a birth, sleep depravation and finding a ‘balance’ are just a few! Why not throw a bit of wrist pain into the mix?  ’Baby wrist’ is something I’m seeing a lot of at the moment, so I thought I would help to explain what exactly causes it and how it can be managed.

What exactly is ‘baby wrist’?

‘Baby wrist’ is essentially an overuse injury that is triggered by the often repetitive tasks of having a new bub, like feeding, lifting, carrying and rocking. New mums are prone to overuse conditions like these because of the softening effect certain pregnancy hormones (like relaxin) can have on the ligaments and tendons. ‘Baby wrist’ can range from a niggle when you hold your baby to more severe pain that prevents you from gripping.

The most common cause of ‘baby wrist’ is DeQuervain’s Tenosynovitis, which involves inflammation of two tendons in the thumb. It normally produces pain on the thumb side of the wrist during lifting/carrying and gripping.

DeQuervainslabel-01(2)

Another possible cause is Carpel Tunnel Syndrome. This involves compression of the structures in the carpel tunnel of the wrist, which can cause tingling, numbness and pain in the wrist & hand. It is quite common during pregnancy, because the extra fluid we retain can compress the tunnel. After pregnancy, the cause is usually more related to overuse; specifically spending too much time with the wrist in flexion (i.e bent).

Anterior view of wrist comparing a healthy carpal tunnel with a compressed median nerve in the carpal tunnel; AMuscsk_20140312_v0_003; SOURCE: ortho_carp-tun-rel-endo_anat.ai; AMuscsk_20140312_v0_003_Layers.psd

What can you do to help?

Often making just a few changes to your wrist position in feeding, carrying & lifting postures can make a huge difference. Try:

  • Using a pillow to support your baby while you feed, so that your hand and wrist are not working too hard
  • Using your forearm to support your bub’s head while feeding or their bottom while carrying, rather than your wrist (see picture below)
  • Minimising gripping activities where possible (like gardening, chopping lot of veggies, carrying heavy shopping bags)
  • Try to aim for a straight wrist when carrying and feeding. Avoid holding your wrist in a bent position and allowing your thumb to move away from your hand (see picture below).

holding baby wrist position

What can we do to help?

We can help by determining what the exact cause of your wrist pain is.  We can then help by:

  • massaging the muscles of the forearm & wrist
  • dry needling if we think it will help
  • applying protective strapping/taping
  • giving you some simple exercises and strategies to manage it at home
  • prescribing a wrist brace/splint if we think it is necessary.

GLOW Physio are experienced in treating ALL conditions affecting women, especially new mums and mums-to-be. Give us a call today to see if we can help you enjoy the GLOW of good health!