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Warning about 'Mommy's Thumb'

January 8, 2013 6:39:08 PM PST
It is an ailment that affects many new moms, and not only is it painful, it can actually prevent moms from picking up their babies.

It's been nicknamed "Mommy Thumb", and it is on the rise. But there are things that moms can do to prevent it.

"It would just be really sharp quick pain and it would make me want to drop whatever I was holding," said Michelle Leo.

Even if she was holding her baby.

Two months after little Mae was born, Michelle felt the pain in her thumbs while lifting her daughter up, first the left side then the right. It's known as Mommy Thumb or Mommy Wrist.

"I'd never heard of it and everyone I told hadn't heard of it either," she adds.

The medical term is "De Quervain's Tendinitis", inflammation of the tendons at the base of the thumb.

Dr. Steven Beldner is a hand surgeon at Beth Israel Medical Center and says it's thought to first be caused by hormonal changes and water retention during pregnancy. That causes swelling of the tendons made worse by constant lifting of the new baby

"Whenever you lift something with your tendons they're gonna get bigger just like if I go to a gym if I work out I'm gonna get bigger," adds Dr. Beldner.

He says Mommy Thumb affects about 1 in 10 pregnant women and the numbers are going up. But moms have been lifting their babies since the beginning of time, so what gives.

One theory is that technology is making it worse. We're texting and emailing all day and that uses some of the very same tendons.

Dr. Beldner adds, "The problem when tendons get bigger is they only live in this small compartment so when they get larger they start to get pinched in the compartment."

To release those tendons, Michelle had surgery a month ago. That's after trying a cortisone injection first. A brace and physical therapy can also help.

But to prevent mommy thumb you have to change your grip, when pushing a stroller- put your thumb on top instead of around the bar. And when lifting here's the wrong way with the thumb up.

Michelle says it was awkward at first, but worth it

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