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How To Identify, Prevent and Treat Baby Wrist Pain

How To Identify, Prevent and Treat Baby Wrist Pain


The experience of being a new mom can be both fulfilling and challenging.

In the latter category, hormone changes, fluid retention and the sudden addition of new physically demands such as lifting and carrying the newborn often lead to a painful condition known as “baby wrist”. Changing diapers, breastfeeding and lifting the child can all become nearly impossible due to pain and weakness related to this condition.

Lifting a newborn may not seem like it would take much effort. But a baby will typically need to be lifted 30 or more times a day.

That adds up and it places new mothers already prone to hormone-induced tendon weakness at further risk of injury. The tendons and supporting muscles of the wrist and thumb have not had time to become conditioned to this intensive new activity and can become painfully inflamed.

New Born ParentingThe most common diagnosis for new moms with tendon pain around the base of the thumb is deQuervain’s tenosynovitis — inflammation of the sheath that surrounds the tendons. This odd sounding condition is something that should not be ignored, as it can lead to chronic inflammation that will cause suffering for years to come. Delaying treatment can also lead to pain from other parts of the body attempting to compensate for the injury, such as the neck and shoulders.

The action that most often leads to deQuervain’s is scooping — hands out, thumbs up — used most frequently when lifting a baby out of a crib from their underarms.  Holding your baby in certain positions can further exacerbate this condition. Pain during feeding is a common complaint due to the sometimes unnatural position of the wrist when holding a baby, especially when using a bottle.

To prevent deQuervain’s try keeping your forearm, wrist and hand in a straight line instead of bending the wrist to hold your baby’s head. If possible, lift and carry your child with both arms or use a baby carrier. Using a changing table that allows you to move your baby close to you in a hugging position before standing lets your legs do more of the work than your wrists. As your Stroller Strides group rolls towards Madison Park make sure to place your palms on top of the carriage’s handles, instead of the sides, to minimize the tendency to angle your wrists. Take frequent breaks from any hand-intensive activity and allow your hand and wrist to rest in a neutral position.

Yoga classes designed specifically for pre- and post-natal moms can be found at Live Love Flow in Madison Valley and 8 Limbs Yoga on Capitol Hill. The instructors can help maintain and improve the strength, mobility and balance of the body to better tolerate the demanding tasks of being a new mom. Treating your overworked muscles to a massage at Seattle Massage Pro may speed recovery and decrease muscle fatigue.

Breastfeeding can be stressful to the tendons of the wrist as well. Try to avoid excessively curving your hand and wrist around your newborn during breastfeeding. Using bed pillows or special breastfeeding pillows and folded baby blankets (particularly supporting the wrists from underneath) can all allow mom to hold baby without excessive bending. Using a swaddle blanket from The Original Children’s Shop may relieve some of the stress applied to tendons as well. A foot stool can help with positioning your baby in your lap. Some mothers may feed while lying down to minimize stress to their wrist.

If you find yourself with symptoms of “baby wrist,” seek out a specialist before the condition becomes chronic and debilitating. A physician may suggest cortisone injections to reduce pain and inflammation. Icing the sore area for 10-15 minutes several times a day can also decrease pain.

Education, body mechanics training, and supportive splinting can be offered by an occupational therapist. A custom splint supporting the wrist and thumb may be used to allow painful tendons to rest and heal without limiting caregiving tasks. Techniques to safely manage car seats, bags and strollers are all part of the treatment plan an occupational therapist will offer.

Many new moms can also find relief from tendonitis pain through acupuncture services like those provided by Annie Lindberg Acupuncture in Madison Valley.

Being a new mom is like being a professional athlete — only harder! In addition to practicing self-care and injury prevention techniques, getting a team of specialists to help you enjoy the postpartum period is essential.

Written by Aaron Shaw, OTR/L, CHT, CSCS
Occupational Therapist
Certified Hand Therapist
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

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  • Natalie Schobert
    July 18, 2017 at 1:00 am

    What great tips for all moms! Would this apply everyone who are not moms?

  • Amanda Lacey
    July 18, 2017 at 1:08 am

    This is a great article! I didn’t realize these situations caused wrist pains for moms. Great advice!

  • Bianca Simpson
    July 18, 2017 at 1:29 am

    Excellent article for new moms! There are great products and services tailored for moms. I’ll be sure to use them or recommend them to the moms I know.

  • Danie Matthews
    July 18, 2017 at 1:29 am

    I have never heard of baby wrist pain until this article. This information is great! It is amazing the things that new moms can go through for the love of their child!

  • Kathleen Ryan
    July 27, 2017 at 7:52 pm

    Wow! Thanks for sharing!

  • Amanda Johnston
    July 28, 2017 at 8:50 pm

    Great article! Many do not know that baby wrist pain is so common! Good to know that ways it can be prevented or treated!

  • Sierra Williams
    July 29, 2017 at 4:44 pm

    This is great! My neighbor just had a baby, I’ll have to share this article with her!

    • Aaron Shaw
      September 23, 2017 at 6:25 pm

      Thanks for sharing the information with others.

  • Anna Franks Swanson
    August 1, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    Thanks for your article. My daughter turns 4 months tomorrow and is our 3rd child. While I for recall having wrist pain with our boys, I have twice since she was born.

  • Anna Franks Swanson
    August 1, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    Thanks for your article. My daughter turns 4 months tomorrow and is our 3rd child. While I don’t recall having wrist pain with our boys, I have twice since she was born.

    • Aaron Shaw
      September 23, 2017 at 6:25 pm

      We see wrist and forearm injuries related to newborns all the time. Being a parent is a tough sport!

  • Mabel Smith
    September 19, 2017 at 6:28 pm

    Thank you for the article! I’ll share this article with a few friend’s of mind who just had children. Who knew wrist pain was such a big deal after childbirth?

    • Aaron Shaw
      September 23, 2017 at 6:29 pm

      Nothing is more distressing to a new parent than being unable to hold their baby because of pain. We always manage to find a way to help the inflamed tissue heal while letting parents be parents. The sooner we see someone with these aches and pains the quicker we can help fix it!

  • Christine
    September 25, 2017 at 6:31 am

    I’ll let a family member of mine know about this great article! She feels really exhausted everyday working and taking care of my youngest cousin, who is two years old along with her first child, who is six-years-old. How can you reduce your injury if the child is very active and full of energy?

    • Aaron Shaw
      September 27, 2017 at 10:15 pm

      That’s a tough one! A couple of energetic kids running around can make taking care of yourself tough. The best thing to do would be to focus on using good body mechanics when lifting the kids. You can check out our blog post on Back Pain for more information on ways to save your back.

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