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Treating soreness in the wrists and thumbs during and after pregnancy

A surprising percentage of new and expecting mothers experience pain and discomfort in their hands – specifically, in their thumbs and wrists – during the third trimester of their pregnancy, and following the delivery of their baby.

Let’s explore what causes these problems and, perhaps more importantly, what you can do to alleviate thumb and/or wrist pain as soon as it arises.

Mother’s thumb: De Quervain's tenosynovitis  

It’s perhaps one of the lesser-known conditions that can flare up during and after pregnancy – but mother’s thumb can be uncomfortable at best, and painful at worst.

The condition, which goes by the medical name of De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, is caused by inflammation of the sheath that surrounds the two tendons that run between the wrist and the thumb. When aggravated, these tendons become thick and swollen, leading to pain that is made worse by pinching, grasping, or wringing movements.

Mother’s thumb is not exclusive to pregnant women – but ladies who are due to deliver or who have just given birth are much more susceptible to a strain in this area, as they will be using their hands more extensively whilst lifting, holding, and moving their baby. It’s also thought that the fluid retention caused by fluctuating hormone levels can contribute to the development of De Quervain’s syndrome.

Pregnancy hip and back pain
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Mother’s wrist: Carpal tunnel syndrome

In a similar way to De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by repetitive overuse – this time, of the wrist.

The carpal tunnel itself is the thin passageway of tendons, ligaments and bones that runs along the anterior portion of the wrist on each hand. When it becomes inflamed as a result of repetitive or overly strained hand movements, this pressure causes pain, numbness and tingling across the hand and up into the arm. Again, carpal tunnel syndrome is very prevalent in the later stages of pregnancy, whilst the body is holding onto much more water; the added swelling can begin to pinch the nerve, leading to the symptoms described above. It is exacerbated by bending the wrist at an acute angle, which compresses the nerves further, specially while you are breastfeeding or holding your little one. 

How can mother’s wrist and thumb be treated?

De Quervain’s syndrome and carpal tunnel syndrome may be relatively common in pregnancy and beyond – but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer unnecessarily.

There are plenty of ways you can treat both conditions, either at home or with the help of our professional women’s health physiotherapists.

Try implementing below suggested changes into your daily activities to ease pain and improve the effects of your therapy programme. You can read more on our blog by clicking here.

  • Rest your wrists

  • Change your breastfeeding position 

  • Lift your baby differently

  • Use a splint 

Specific daily exercises can help to maintain flexibility in the joints. Wrist extensions, flexion stretches, and controlled rotations can provide you with safe and effective ways to keep your wrists and thumbs moving in a pain-free manner – but it’s important to allow sufficient time for healing, and to not push your body too soon. The team here at PelviCare will devise a therapy programme that will help you navigate a safe and comfortable road to recovery.

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Pregnancy hip and back pain

Tailored therapeutic ultrasound therapy

We also treat De Quervain’s syndrome and carpal tunnel syndrome at our clinic in Greenwich using our innovative therapeutic ultrasound machine.

This equipment can be used to send a series of high frequency soundwaves to effectively ‘heat up’ the tendons, muscles and ligaments in your wrists and thumbs. Boosted circulation delivers oxygen to the injured tissue to stimulate cell repair and accelerates healing in the process. It can also be manipulated to transmit non-thermal effects; that is, cavitational vibrations that stimulate cell membranes and in turn lessen inflammation.

Contact our team for more information on the many benefits of our targeted therapeutic ultrasound treatments, which can also be used to combat other pregnancy related conditions like mastitis.

Supporting treatment techniques

Alongside ultrasound therapy, your physiotherapist will perform soft tissue massage and hand joint mobilisation to release tight muscles and restore the full range of motion to the hand, wrist, and forearm joints.

To maintain the effects of the therapy, you will be offered kinesiotaping, which will support the wrist and aid with drainage of the wrist area back up the limb towards the heart, speeding up the healing process.

You will be given a series of stretching exercises to perform at home to combat any tightness of the hand and forearm muscles, and, together with improvement of your condition, more advanced exercises to strengthen your wrist and thumb to restore full movement and strength to the tissues.

Finally, we will carry out an ergonomic assessment of your breastfeeding position and provide you with lots of advice how to hold and lift your little one.

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The full range of treatments on offer from PelviCare:

As women’s health specialists, we are proud to offer a fantastic range of diagnostic and physiotherapy services that are designed to aid your post-birth recovery and give you back your confidence, regardless of the issues you’re facing.