Yet unless you’ve suffered with it, you’ve probably never heard of it.
The ailment causes pain in the base of the thumb and wrist whenever you use your thumb. It can make activities like opening jars, unscrewing the lid of milk bottles, changing nappies and lifting your tiny tot utterly agonising.
Big Bang Theory’s Kaley Cuoco gave birth to her first child, Matilda, back in March – and took to Instagram in July to share a photo of herself wearing a compression bandage on her wrist. “They call it ‘mommy wrist,’” she wrote in the caption of the Instagram Story, later adding that she had it in both hands. Ouch.
“I’ve had this for the past nine months from my baby and it’s NO joke!” said one parent, after Entertainment Tonight shared photos of Cuoco’s wrists on Instagram.
“I had it with my third child, it was awful, I couldn’t pick her up,” added another mum. “I couldn’t lift anything, I got a steroid shot directly in my wrist and it went away within hours, never had an issue with it again.”
What causes the issue?
According to the Health Service Executive (HSE), it could be caused by a combination of hormonal changes and increased pressure on the wrist tendons when lifting and holding a baby – which makes a lot of sense.
Women who breastfeed also have a higher chance of developing it, but it’s not clear why.
If you have ‘mother’s wrist’, you’ll certainly know about it. Symptoms include:
- Pain on the thumb side of the wrist, which is aggravated by lifting the thumb or using scissors. The pain might travel up the arm.
- Tenderness if you press on the site of pain
- Swelling of the site of pain
- Clicking or snapping of the tendons.
Experts at Bristol Chiropractic shared a handy way to know if you have the issue. Grip your thumb and gently pull it down and forwards away from you.
“If this causes pain, there is a good chance that this is the type of ‘baby wrist’ you are suffering with,” they explained.
The good news is that milder cases of ‘mother’s wrist’ tend to go away in a couple of weeks – although sometimes this is more like months.
In the meantime, if you’re struggling, HSE recommends easing the pain with ice massages, stretches, painkillers (paracetamol) or even wearing a rigid wrist splint. These can usually be obtained from a sports shop or physiotherapist.
It can also help to relieve the pain by resting the hand – although that’s easier said than done with a baby.
If the pain doesn’t ease off, speak to your GP or book in with a physiotherapist.
Guidance from the British Society for Surgery of the Hand (BSSH) suggests a steroid injection relieves the pain in about 70% of cases. However, some thinning or colour change in the skin at the site of injection may occur.
In severe cases, some parents might require surgery, which typically sorts the problem out.