Mum's Thumb

What is it?

Almost 50% of new mothers suffer from mum’s thumb. It is also known as De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis.

It is a condition in which the tendons of the thumb become inflamed and rub against their casing at the level of the wrist. This is mostly due to repetitive strain.

Signs and Symptoms

Pain is felt at the base of the thumb mostly when picking up your baby or bottle feeding.
It is triggered when you create an “L” shape with your thumb up and away from your fingers.
There can be swelling of the tendons that you would see at the base of your thumb on the outside of your wrist.

A possible snapping or catching feeling may occur when moving the thumb.


The diagnosis can be made by your doctor or physical therapist with examination of the wrist and a positive Finkelstein test.

Imaging or blood tests are not necessary unless the cause is uncertain.


De Quervain’s tenosynovitis tends to resolve itself with reduction of the triggering acitivity.
Rest is therefore the most important to let the condition settle. A splint or firm bandage can be used to support the wrist.

Ice packs over the affected area may ease swelling and pain. A simple ice pack can be made by wrapping a pack of frozen peas in a tea towel. Apply it to the affected area for 10 minutes twice a day.

Anti-inflammatory painkillers are often prescribed (such as Ibuprofen) to reduce the inflammation. Anti-inflammatory creams or gels that you apply over the base of the thumb tend to produce fewer side effects than the oral ones.

Osteopathy, chiropractic or physiotherapy may be advised.

If the condition is severe and the above measures do not help alleviate the pain then a steroid injection might be suggested by your doctor.


Unfortunately the most effective way to reduce the pain is to reduce the activity. It is hard to ask a new mother to stop picking up her baby! So here are some tips that can help:
Modify the way you lift your baby by avoiding lifting from your baby’s underarms and try scooping him/her up keeping your thumb close to your fingers.

When breast feeding make sure you use a pillow to for support so that you can fully rest your elbow and your baby’s head onto your arm (avoid holding the head with your hand).

When bottlefeeding avoid holing the bottle between your thumb and fingers and make sure you do not extend your wrist. You can try holding the bottle from the bottom.

If you are a new mum and are experienceing this or maybe your baby isnt settling or feeding well make an appointment with Eglantine Hello the osteopath in Islington at Angel Osteopathic Clinic. Click below to email the clinic.

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