Medical Minute 4-28: New Mommy Malady: "Mummy Thumb"

By: Ramin Khalili Email
By: Ramin Khalili Email

Little Jayden James in on the ground and in the air. He's an 8-month-old on the move.

"Going out anywhere …he's very social … so he loves to be around people," his mom said.

And the fact that mom Kim Brenninkmeyer can keep up is amazing.
When Jayden was born, she found the area here - from her wrist to thumb was in constant pain.

"Any kind where I had to kind of stretch … was very painful - it just felt like it was tearing, ripping, burning," said Kim Brenninkmeyer.

"She asked very frankly … "is this going to happen every time I have a child - I don't know if I can go through this," said David N. Maine, M.D., Director - Center for Interventional Pain Medicine Mercy Medical Center
Baltimore, MD.

Doctor David Maine knew the cause: So-called "mommy thumb" - a new term for over-use injury. The true name: Day-Quervain's teno-syno-vitis. It comes with the scooping, holding and lifting that new moms aren't used to.

"I've talked to friends who've had babies - and they've said "oh, I had that, too" - and no one knew what it was."

Experts say one-quarter to one-half of new mothers now get symptoms. Causes include heavier children - as more than 10-percent of two-year olds are now overweight. Plus - more older mothers are having kids - and, more people are using thumb-numbing smart-phones, too.

"All that can create this overuse of these tendons along the base of the thumb … and create - tendonitis essentially."

A new mom at 40 - Kim got cortisone shots - which are 90-percent effective. Now - she can keep up with J.J. … no problems.

"So, about two weeks I was pain free … which was just such a relief."

For more information on other series produced by Ivanhoe Broadcast News contact John Cherry at (407) 691-1500, jcherry@ivanhoe.com.

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BACKGROUND: Mommy Thumb, or De Quervain's syndrome, is a growing complaint among new mothers. Mommy Thumb is a repetitive strain injury, much like carpal tunnel syndrome or tennis elbow. Doctors say though the problem has been around for as long as women have been having children, heavier children, older mothers, lower cribs and increased smart phone usage have increased the number of cases in recent years. On the topic of heavier children, it should be noted that 10% of America’s 2-year-old children are now considered obese.

STATISTICS: Orthopedic surgeons estimate between one quarter and one half of new mothers experience Mommy Thumb; however, Mommy Thumb doesn't affect only women. Men can get it, too, although a study from the University of Colorado found that Mommy Thumb affects women four times as often as it affects men. The same study found that people over 40 were three times more likely to get Mommy Thumb than younger people. Since over ten percent of the first-time mothers in the US every year are over 35, and children are getting heavier (10.1 percent of children ages 6 months to 2 years were overweight in 2004, compared to only 5.7 percent in 1980), it's no surprise cases of Mommy Thumb are on the rise (www.WSJ.com).

SYMPTOMS: The main symptom of Mommy Thumb is a sharp pain on the inside of the wrist caused by inflammation of the tendons along the thumb and wrist, specifically, the long thumb abductor (or abductor pollicis longus) and the short thumb extensor (extensor pollicis brevis). Some women begin experiencing pain during pregnancy; doctors think this is because swelling adds pressure to the already stressed tendons. Once the child is born, pain is often experienced when a mother picks up her child by the armpits, which puts most of the child's weight on the thumbs. It should also be noted that this type of picking up and stretching are part of a range of new motions that new mothers (especially older ones) simply aren’t used to performing. Experts say while symptoms may start in the last trimester of pregnancy, exact causes for flare-ups in that specific time period are unknown (The Cleveland Clinic).

TREATMENT: Mommy Thumb can usually be treated with ice and pain relievers or anti-inflammatory drugs. Wearing a splint can also help, as it keeps the thumb in a fixed position. If those methods prove ineffective, doctors often recommend steroid injections, such as cortisone shots, and following that - surgery.

For More Information, Contact:
Daniel Collins
Mercy Medical Center
dcollins@mdmercy.com


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