Hand surgeon John M. Erickson, MD explains the phenomenon called “mommy’s wrist.”
“Mommy’s wrist” or “mommy’s thumb” is a condition that is officially called de Quervain’s tenosynovitis (or tendonitis). This is a type of tendonitis in the wrist whose nickname comes from the fact that the condition is common in caregivers of young children. The tendonitis causes pain on the thumb side of the wrist and is worse with movement of the thumb. Activities such as opening jars, turning door knobs, and lifting children can be difficult.
Symptoms arise from de Quervain’s tendonitis when there is irritation of the tendons that extend the thumb in their surrounding sheath at the wrist. Instead of gliding smoothly through the sheath, the abductor pollicis longus (APL) and extensor pollicis brevis (EPB) tendons can be swollen, irritated and painful. Certain movements of the thumb and wrist can be excruciating. People may feel a tender cyst or bump and notice swelling in this part of the wrist near the base of the thumb. Lifting objects, gripping, or pinching with the thumb often increases symptoms. Occasionally, a popping sensation is a problem.