Avoid and Treat New-Mom Injuries

Mommy Mistake: Holding Baby With a Bent Wrist

mother holding baby

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The injury De Quervain's tenosynovitis, aka "mother's wrist." The area is often tender, and making a fist or rotating the wrist is painful. This occurs when the sheath around the tendons at the base of the wrist and thumb becomes swollen, due to overextension or flexing too much. Fluid retention and hormonal changes during pregnancy also cause the tissues around the tendons to swell and become inflamed.

Prevent it Hold your baby in a way that doesn't overexert the muscles of your hand, wrist, and forearm, says Deborah Quilter, a movement therapist in New York City and author of The Repetitive Strain Injury Recovery Book. Keep your forearm, wrist, and hand in a straight line instead of bending the wrist to hold your baby's head. Take frequent breaks from any hand-intensive activity, and allow your hand and wrist to rest in a neutral position. If possible, carry your child with both arms or use a baby carrier. And when pushing a stroller, place your palms on top of the handles to minimize the tendency to bend your wrists.

Heal it Don't take a wait-and-see approach to wrist pain. "If you ignore this problem in one hand, you run the risk of overusing the other, and then both hands will be affected," says Robert E. Markison, M.D., a hand surgeon and associate clinical professor at the University of California, San Francisco. See an orthopedist who may recommend a wrist splint to stabilize the hand and thumb. You can relieve some inflammation by gently massaging the wrist, moving your strokes toward your elbow. Also, alternate warm and cool hand and wrist baths. If nothing helps, your doctor might use a cortisone injection to reduce inflammation. More severe cases may require surgery to open up part of the tendon's sheath to release the pressure that's causing the pain.

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