Sure, opposable thumbs are an evolutionary marvel, but it’s all too easy to take for granted the ability to grasp a doorknob, pick up a crying baby, or nuking your mug of coffee for the third time in one morning. (Hey, no judgement here — you do what ya gotta do!)
… Unless you’ve got Mummy Thumb, that is.
Known in the physical therapy world as De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis (there’ll be a quiz later … not really; don’t panic), Mother’s Thumb is not a joke. If the thumb side of your wrist cries out in pain like a teenager without WiFi when you grab, twist, or make a fist, you’ve probably got this common problem.
And we’ve got more good news! The people most likely to enjoy this unique experience? Postpartum women. You’re welcome.
And two female–dominant hormones, along with the repetitive motions required to care for your baby, are the culprits.
First up: Estrogen
Tendons are little ropes that tie muscle to bone, and they’re found throughout your amazing, magnificent body.
On the thumb side of your wrist, two tendons slide across each other through a small tunnel every time you use your miraculous opposable thumb to change a diaper, pick up bub under his armpits, or snap your fingers to summon a house elf to do your bidding. (It doesn’t work for us, either).
But extra estrogen, which is swirling around in crazy doses during pregnancy and postpartum, can cause fluid retention and swelling, which makes those two tendons too big. They get pinched and inflamed, and unhappy in general. And, babe, if tendons ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.
Ahhh, relaxin. Doesn’t it sound like a hormone that transports you to a white sand beach, gently brushed by turquoise waters?
Relaxin is the hormone that floods your pregnant body and loosens all your joints so that you can make room for your ever-expanding baby.
But after the baby’s born and the pregnancy party’s over, relaxin is that one guest who stays wayyyy too long. In fact, relaxin can still give you loose joints up to five months after you’ve evicted the baby from her temporary home.
And all that hyper-mobility means your two thumb tendons are stretched and worked overtime when you use them, leading to – you guessed it – inflammation and pain.
How to give your tendons some TLC
You can’t check out from everything, unfortunately, but resting your wrists is the quickest way to soothe them. And we’ve got some tips for how to move and exercise safely while you wait for the pain to vacate the premises.
- Lifting heavy free weights – give your grip a rest.
- Boxing – if you can box without using your wrists, by all means continue … yeah we didn’t think so.
- Tennis and golf – or anything else that requires gripping and swinging (looking at you, fly fishing!)
- Bearing weight on your palms – like with certain yoga and Pilates poses.
And! We’ve got a great modification for postnatal yoga or Pilates so that you can enjoy your favourite exercise while not hindering your recovery.
If you must bear weight on your hands, like in cat pose, think “gorilla wrists”. Simply fist your hands (don’t squeeze too tight!) and keep your wrists aligned with your knuckles, resting your weight on your knuckles like you’ve just punched the floor.
*This goes without saying, but don’t actually punch floors. The floor will win. Just giving solid health advice over here.*
Ready for more postpartum-friendly moves? Check out our online postnatal fitness programs and join the fun!