Ever have trouble doing some exercises – especially on all fours – because you get wrist or forearm pain?
Maybe that wrist pain even sticks around and bugs you randomly throughout the day too?
This is actually a super common issue for many moms and there are three key things you’ll want to focus on to help alleviate the pain.
But first, let’s get clear on what exactly this is so you know if it’s what you have and how to deal with it.
In fancy lingo you likely have something called De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis. Yeah. I know. So let’s just go with the casual term, “Mom Thumb”.
Basically it’s an issue that stems from some angry tendons on the thumb side of one or both wrists.
It probably hurts when you turn your wrist, try to use your hand to do something (like pick up your baby, open a door, or make a fist), or try to do exercises in quadruped or all fours position.
It’s common with moms because we tend to have to do things over and over and over again (like picking up and holding a baby) which can become a repetitive strain on our poor little thumbs and wrists.
And if it’s getting real bad you might even be getting pain that travels up into your forearm too.
So this is definitely something you want to tackle ASAP.
Your first step will obviously be to check in with your doctor, physical therapist, or occupational therapist to get a diagnosis and the best treatment options for you.
But since you’re already here, let’s chat about what I did to help ease my own insanely awful wrist pain after my first daughter in hopes that it can help you too.
Yep. After I had my daughter even holding her hurt which – as I’m sure you can imagine because you’re living it – made life incredibly difficult.
Luckily I’m now pain-free and haven’t had to worry about doing exercises on all fours for a few years now (yay!)
So, as I mentioned before, there are 3 key things you’ll want to focus on to help extinguish your own agony.
- Rest & Recovery
Key #1: Rest & Recovery
It’s critical that you start here because right now your thumb and wrist are having a tough time dealing with life.
The tendons in your wrist and thumb – that normally have no trouble gliding through their little canal (basically a tunnel that allows your tendons to connect your wrist to the base of your thumb) – aren’t able to move very well because you’re getting some swelling and inflammation in there.
This is why the first step is to rest that wrist as much as you can.
I know. You’re a mom. “Rest” isn’t exactly in your vocabulary just try to be mindful of how you do repetitive movements (like picking up your baby) and ask for help when you can.
If you’re seeing a physio or occupational therapist, they may even fit you with a splint to immobilize your wrist and thumb and give your body the chance to clear out that swelling and inflammation.
Your doctor might also suggest you try using a pain reliever (like Tylenol or Advil) and they may even give you a steroid injection to help diminish the swelling.
This may sound awful but honestly you can still do a lot of daily movements and even exercise with the splint. And it’s just temporary. A few weeks in the splint can help you become pain-free and able to get back to life again.
Key #2: Strength
Speaking of getting back to life…
You want to start working on strengthening your upper body (even if you’re in a splint) because having stronger shoulders, arms and back can help you avoid getting this wrist pain again.
Well, if you’re stronger, you’re going to have an easier time holding, picking up and playing with your baby, and doing all the daily mom-things (and other things) you need to do.
Your wrists won’t have to suffer the bulk of the work because your muscles will be strong enough to take one for the team and join the effort.
We obviously want to avoid things that could make the issue worse (like pushups and being in a quadruped position on your wrists) but there are plenty of options that can help you get stronger without aggravating your wrist even more (like bicep curls and shoulder presses – both of which can be done in a splint).
You can even modify certain exercises so you’re on your forearms instead of your wrists (like choosing to do planks from your forearms instead of on your hands).
So – once you have the go-ahead from your doctor, physio, or occupational therapist – add in some upper body strengthening exercises to help give your wrists the support they need to do their job well (without having to take all the pressure).
Whatever exercises you’re doing, just make sure you aren’t getting any pain. The point is to obviously feel better, not worse!
Key #3: Mobility
Lastly, we want you to be able to move well.
It may sound counterintuitive to work on mobility because I just said that Mom Thumb is a repetitive strain injury so you might be wondering why I’m suggesting you do mobility movements over and over again.
But the truth is that mobility movements are very different than the movements you were doing that caused your wrist pain.
And you want to be mobile throughout your wrist, forearm, shoulder and even chest and upper back.
The more mobile your body is, the better it functions.
And because we’re constantly doing awkward, repetitive movements as moms, we need a body that can go with the flow and contort itself into all kinds of positions without getting injured.
So – again, once you get the go ahead from physical therapist, OT, or doc – you’re going to want to start a gentle exercise program that includes some mobility training for your upper body.
You can do some mobility work daily, before you workout, after your workout. Really there are no set rules. The goal is to simply get it done. So do it when it works for you.
There shouldn’t be any pain when you do this. We want to make you feel better, not worse. So pay attention to any sensation you’re getting and stop if you feel pain or like your symptoms are coming back.
If you’d like a peek at some of the wrist mobility movements I do, I’ve got a video for you below.
You can try these mobility exercises before your next workout if you’d like to warm-up your wrists – especially if you’re planning on getting onto all fours.
Just remember, I don’t want this to feel painful and, if you’re under the care of a pro for wrist issues, make sure you check in with them before you do this.
I know that having wrist pain is less than fun. But with the right support, and some strength and mobility exercises, you can ditch the agony for good.
The key is to keep working on it. Because – like flossing – if you quit that pain (or plaque) can come back. So do your strength and mobility movements on a regular basis to stay feeling awesome forever.
Have a question about any of these steps? Let me know in the comments below. I’m here to help!
P.S. Wrist pain is super common in moms (your friends might even have it) so please share this post on Facebook or Twitter so other moms can get some relief. Thank you!