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New mums: Pain in the thumb?

Its common knowledge, that pregnant women and new mothers are prone to experience low back pain. Lots have been said to why, and such women have successfully been treated with strengthening exercises to stabilise the pelvis.

However did you know that pregnant women and new born mothers were also prone to wrist and thumb problems?

Carpel Tunnel

Carpel tunnel is widely recognised as a problem experienced by women antenatally and postnatally. This condition arises due to an increase in the blood volume circulation and swelling commonly experienced during pregnancy.
The carpel tunnel itself comprises of the bones and ligaments that form a canal at the base of the hand and as the median nerve passes through this, it can be compressed and impinged.
The median nerve gives sensation to the thumb, the index, middle, and half of the ring finger and is responsible for movement of a muscle at the base of the thumb. Pressure on this nerve can therefore cause a loss of either sensation or strength in these areas.

Deqeurvain tendonitis

In addition Deqeurvain tendonitis is also seen during the last trimester of pregnancy and in new mothers. In fact some statistics have suggested that 50% of new mothers will experience these symptoms and the older the new mother (40 plus) the more likely. An increase in the incidence of dequervain also relates to the increase in the weight of new born babies over the  last 30 years.

This condition involves irritation to 2 muscle tendons that mobilise the thumb causing pain with pinching, grasping, lifting and other movements of the thumb and wrist.

The root cause of this problem in the pregnant clientale is believed to be due to the repetitive and frequent improper lifting and cradling of the child.

Improper lifting and cradling

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As a mother bends down to lift her child she often places her thumb under the child’s armpit. In doing so she put a lot of strain on the thumb joint and muscles. This is a movement that is often done repetitively and for a long period and from various heights (floor to standing, cot to standing). As the child continues to grow and gets heavier the strain may potentially worsen, causing inflammation, waekening and scarring to the tendon.

Also whilst cradling the child, some mother will use an L shape index finger and thumb to cradle and support the child’s head. Again overstraining the  tendons of the thumb leading to the above problems.

Save your thumbs

New mothers could place their hand around the ribcage of their child and gently squeeze as they lift the child. This will alleviate the pressure exerted on the muscles of the thumb.
Alternatively supporting the child from the bottom and behind the head to lift the child can also reduce the pressure on thumbs.

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Have a read of the carpel tunnel and Deqeurvain tendonitis articles for more informarmation about these conditions and physiotherapy treatment options to help your hands.

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