Singapore mum shares 5 best exercises to treat mommy thumb

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This Singapore mum, who is also a prenatal and postnatal fitness teacher, shares with us some great mommy thumb exercises that can help ease the pain...

Most new mums have experienced that nagging pain at the base of their thumb, and sometimes in your  wrist. It is called mommy thumb or De Quervain's tenosynovitis. We all know how irritating the condition can get, especially because it hurts every time you have to lift your baby up. Singapore mum, Lynn Tham, who is also a prenatal and postnatal fitness teacher, shares with us some great mommy thumb exercises here, that can help ease the pain.

What exactly is Mommy thumb?

Mommy thumb or De Quervain's tenosynovitis is a painful condition affecting the tendons on the thumb side of your wrist. If you have de Quervain's tenosynovitis, it will probably hurt when you turn your wrist, grasp anything or make a fist.

The exact cause of Mommy thumb isn't known, but any activity that relies on repetitive hand or wrist movement — such as playing racket sports, or lifting your baby — can make it worse.

Symptoms of Mommy thumb include:

  • Pain near the base of your thumb
  • Swelling near the base of your thumb
  • Difficulty moving your thumb and wrist when you're doing something that involves grasping or pinching
  • A "sticking" or "stop-and-go" sensation in your thumb when moving it

If treatment is delayed, the pain may spread further into your thumb, back into your forearm or both. Pinching, grasping and other movements of your thumb and wrist aggravate the pain.

Treatment options for Mommy thumb

Initial treatment of Mommy thumb may include:

  • Immobilising your thumb and wrist, keeping them straight with a splint or brace to help rest your tendons
  • Avoiding repetitive thumb movements as much as possible
  • Avoiding pinching with your thumb when moving your wrist from side to side
  • Applying ice to the affected area

Singapore mum shares mommy thumb exercises to ease the pain

Mummy of 2, Lynn Tham, who is a pre-natal and post-natal fitness teacher, tells us that she first experienced Mommy Thumb a couple of months after the birth of her older daughter.

"It started with a discomfort whenever holding my baby, and the pain worsened whenever there was a movement of the thumb."

"It progressed to difficulty and painful discomfort when lifting and holding my baby (also in latching positions). I also had the Carpel Tunnel Syndrome", she says.

Lynn tried both Western medicine and TCM, but the relief was temporary. 

"Pain quickly returned as I got back into the everyday routine of caring for my baby and household chores."

"I was advised to avoid using that dominant hand and taking a rest. However, being the main caretaker of the baby and with no helper, not using the dominant hand and resting the hand completely was not possible."

Lynn started looking for more information on the condition.

"Together with the knowledge of relief methods, the do and don'ts, and modifications in my practice of yoga, the pain lessened and there was improved functioning", reveals Lynn, who is also the owner and co-founder of The Fierce-Hearted, a company that promotes the wellbeing of women and mothers.

Here are some mommy thumb exercises and tips that Lynn suggests:

Relief exercise no.1:

"This stretch is a gentle stretch, not an aggressive one", says Lynn.

"This stretch is also one of the tests to check if you have De Quervain's Tenosynovitis. When you've done all 4 steps and feel the pain, it means you have Mommy thumb."

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  • Hold your arms out in front of you. (Your hand should be in the position used for shaking someone's hand.)
  • Bend your thumb toward your palm. Fingers over your thumb to form a fist.
  • Gently, stretch your fist downwards. Imagine your fist to be a watering can and you're watering plants. Use your other hand to gently stretch this wrist downward until you feel the stretch on the thumb side of your wrist.
  • Hold for at least 15 to 30 seconds.
  • Repeat 2 to 4 times. You may do this 2-3 times daily.

Relief exercise no.2:

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  • Sit in a comfortable crossed-legged position on the floor or seated on the chair
  • Let your gaze be softly unfocused or close your eyes lightly 
  • Release your jaw and muscles of your face. Keep your spine long and extended, shoulders relaxed.
  • Inhale and exhale evenly through your nose.
  • Reach your right hand out to the side of the room. Keep your palm open, pushing an imaginary wall.
  • Tilt your head to the left and feel the stretch in between your neck and shoulder. 
  • Use your left hand to pull your head closer down to your left shoulder.
  • Breathe evenly for 5 breathes. Repeat for the other side. 

Relief exercise no.3:

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  • Take your hand and place it comfortably in front of you. With the other hand, you don't want to push too hard on the top that it causes pain. We are doing a good stretch first. Hold that stretch for 30 seconds. 
  • And then reverse it and stretch that way. Again, holding for another 30 seconds. We are using our hands to press against the other, just so that we can control the pressure. 

Do it for 30 seconds, 3 times each.

Strengthening exercises: Using bottle

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  • Hold the bottle in an upright manner, where bottle is vertical. 
  • You may hold the bottle with your thumb pointing upwards or with the usual grip of having the thumb around the bottle.
  • Move the wrist up and down, slowly and controlled. 
  • Look at the area of where your thumb is- it moves downwards and upwards. You will feel a deep stretch. 
  • Alternating back and forth, 10 of these.

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  • Hold the bottle in the horizontal position.
  • Start off with the wrist going down slowly and controlled.
  • And up, slowly.
  • Alternating back and forth, with about 10 of these. Not too many that it causes pain. 
  • You may also do it without holding anything. 

Strengthening exercises: Resistance training with band

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  • Start off with a small/thin rubber band. One that provides resistance.
  • Put it all around if your fingers, including your thumb.
  • Now stretch it out, and SLOWLY close it back. 
  • Unlike resistance band training, the bands don't push your fingers back in, YOU CONTROL the band opening and closing. 

More tips for Mommy Thumb relief:

  • After you latch your baby, avoid using your hand and wrist to support your baby's head during feeding. Instead, use a rolled up blanket or small pillow to avoid positioning the wrist in a prolonged bent position.
  • Instead of using your thumb and fingers to lift your child, place your hands on both sides of his rib cage and gently squeeze the child to lift.
  • Alternatively, place one hand under your child’s bottom and another hand behind his head to hold him close and lift him.

Thank you so much, Lynn, for sharing these very useful mommy thumb exercises and tips with us. 

To get more details about Lynn's workshops, follow the Fierce-Hearted page on:

Also READ: Pregnancy Exercise: 5 Easy workouts for every trimester

(Additional Source: MayoClinic)

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