What is De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis, aka Mommy Thumb?

De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis

Like most twin moms, the amount of swelling I had during my pregnancy was astounding. Luckily, I avoided preeclampsia, but my feet and hands still took the brunt of all the extra fluid’s pressure. On top of the general pregnancy discomfort, I was finding myself waking up with numbness and pins in needles in my hands. I chalked it up to the pains of pregnancy and waited it out until I realized that not only were my symptoms not going away, but that there was also constant ache and even weakness, especially after doing repetitive tasks, such as feeding or clothing the girls. In fact, I remember numerous feedings where I would drop the bottle or spoon. Not to mention, the aggravation of waking up in the middle of the night for feedings with my dominant hand completely asleep. That’s when I decided to say enough was enough and consulted with my doctor, who referred me to a wonderful orthopedic specialist.

Hand pain and injury is not uncommon during and after twin pregnancies. Twin mothers often suffer with De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis (also adorably called ‘Mommy’s Thumb’) and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. According to MayoClinic.com, De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis is a painful condition affecting the tendons on the thumb side of your wrist. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke explains that Carpal Tunnel Syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome causes numbness, tingling and other symptoms.

In both conditions, contributing factors, which can start in pregnancy, include hormonal fluctuation, fluid retention and pressure on vessels caused by the excess fluid. Postpartum contributing factors include repetitive motion (such as feedings, screwing/unscrewing of bottles), lifting, and more (rather unpleasant) hormonal fluctuation. Symptoms of De Quervain’s include pain and swelling near the base of the thumb and difficulty in moving the effected thumb. Most complain that pinching or grasping movements aggravate the pain, which, if severe enough, can also radiate into the forearm. In Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, the pain tends to be located in the heel of the hand, and spreads throughout the hand and into the fingers (typically excluding the pinky). Symptoms include burning, tingling, numbness and weakness, occurring especially when holding or lifting objects or resting the wrist on a desk or table.

De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis

In my case, I had waited well over a year since my symptoms began. My orthopedic doctor ordered an X-ray, an electromyogram, and a nerve conduction study. The electromyogram and nerve conduction studies were just about as painful as their scary names would indicate. With my results in hand (no pun intended), my orthopedic doctor officially diagnosed me with severe and irreversible carpal tunnel. He also scolded me for waiting so long, since many times, with proper therapy, the condition can be alleviated. After discussing all of the options with the my physician, I had the release surgery. The procedure is a quick, outpatient surgery, however, I had to let that hand heal for over a week. This meant not using it at all, not getting it wet, and ‘sleeping’ with it in a strange, elevated position. Of course, it was my dominant hand, and I have twins. Luckily, I had scheduled it for the week between Christmas and the New Year, knowing my husband would have a few days off, because changing double diapers one-handed is a new level of hell I don’t recommend.

So if you’re having any kind of pain, numbness or tingling in your hands, fingers or wrist, do not ignore it. Take note of what aggravates it and how long it’s been affecting you and talk to your doctor. For immediate relief, you may try wrist immobilizers (available over-the counter at most pharmacies), ice, anti-inflammatories and of course, resting the affected hand. Of course, the latter is easier said than done with twins! This would be a great time for siblings to help with feeding, or to call in those helping hand offers from family and friends. Call your doctor sooner than later, as these conditions, if left untreated, may cause permanent damage, and you don’t want to miss a single opportunity to hold those precious hands!

De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis


All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

What is De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis, aka Mommy Thumb?Juli Couture is thirty-something mother to hysterical, fraternal twin girls as well as a brother/sister Boston Terrier dynamic duo. Hailing from the North Shore of Massachusetts, she is also a part-time Clinical Assistant, II at Children’s Hospital. Her passion in life is entertaining, especially through writing, though her theme parties are also a pretty great time. She serves as Recording Secretary on the Massachusetts Mother of Twins  Association board as well as Membership Secretary on the North Shore Mothers of Multiples board. She loves classic rock, sugar skulls, making people laugh and coffee…lots and lots of coffee. You can follow her on facebook, twitter, and a new blog, coming soon!

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What is De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis, aka Mommy Thumb?

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