De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is a common, painful inflammation of two tendons that move your thumb. Most people with de Quervain’s will have pain at their wrist (just below the thumb) that will worsen with thumb or wrist movement. It is most often seen in women, especially in those who have recently had a child or those at the end of pregnancy – usually due to a combination of repetitive movement and an increase in swelling, which naturally occurs during pregnancy; however, all caregivers of young children can be susceptible to this overuse condition.
What can I do to prevent de Quervain’s?
The most important advice is to avoid overuse and repetitive motions of your wrist and thumb. Moving your thumb or wrist from side to side repeatedly (thumb side to little finger side) can provoke symptoms. Changing the way we do things to rely on stronger, more capable muscles to do a job is helpful.
Specifically for new parents and caregivers, some tips include:
- When lifting, use both arms to scoop baby, instead of lifting with your wrists.
- Take advantage of tummy time to interact with baby – bonding without holding in your arms.
- When feeding or carrying baby, avoid holding any static posture for a long period of time. Change positions when you can.
- Consider use of a bath sling to aide in supporting baby during bath time, taking some pressure off your hands.
- When dressing, use simple outfits to eliminate time spent on clothing fasteners.
- Use electric or hand held jar openers to open baby food or other jars.
- Use strollers whenever possible instead of carrying in your arms.
- Ask for help when you have visitors! Share your dishwashing, vacuuming, and laundry tasks when help is offered.
What can I do if I have de Quervain’s?
Eliminating or avoiding painful movements is key to helping tendonitis. Most doctors will prescribe an orthosis (brace) that immobilizes both your thumb and wrist. A certified hand therapist can make one for you that is custom-fit to your hand.
See a hand therapist for a full evaluation! They can give specific tips and techniques that are unique to your situation. Massage, stretching and strengthening may be offered as well. You can find a hand therapist at: https://www.asht.org/find-a-therapist.
If symptoms do not respond to treatment, a cortisone injection (be sure to clear with your doctor first if you are currently breastfeeding or pregnant), or surgery may be offered by your hand surgeon.
Lauren Holland, MS, OTR/L, CHT, CEAS II is a certified hand therapist and a member of the American Society of Hand Therapists.