De Quervain’s Tendonitis

Mommy Thumb is a painful condition of the thumb and wrist. Many recent news reports have highlighted this problem, which often affects new mothers. An older name for the problem is DeQuervain’s (dee-qwer-vain’s OR deh-qwer-vain’s) tenosynovitis (just means tendon lining inflammation).

What causes mommy thumb?

This is a condition that involves inflammation along the tendons that pull the thumb back (like a hitchhiker’s thumb). These tendons cross over from the back of the forearm, across the wrist, and onto the backside of the thumb.

Where is the pain?

Patients can have pain anywhere from the forearm to the middle joint of the thumb. This can be a shooting or aching pain that gets worse with even light use of the hand.

Here are some common complaints of mommy thumb patients – the five main signs of the problem you need to recognize:

– trouble lifting even small objects, like a coffee cup
– pain on the thumb side of the wrist with twisting or gripping
– restricted range of movement in the thumb (thumb stiffness)
– hurts to make a fist
– weak hand – afraid I’ll drop things

Why is it called mommy thumb?

New moms get this condition because they lift their babies many dozens of times each day. When you lift a baby with your hands under her arms, your thumbs are usually pointed up and your fingers wrap around the baby’s back.

This position stresses and strains the thumb tendons in the most forceful way possible, sometimes leading to irritation and inflammation of the tendon lining.

Non-moms can develop this condition as well – usually by doing a lot of intense lifting that they’re not used to doing. For example, some patients I’ve seen with this type of tendonitis started having pain after helping someone move on a Saturday.

How is it treated?

Treatment is usually straightforward and does not involve surgery. Most hand surgeons recommend a combination of the following:

– splinting – with a “thumb spica” splint
– anti-inflammatory medications
– avoiding overuse
– gentle stretching and massage
– steroid (cortisone) injection in the office

Steroid injections are only necessary when patients:

– are very painful all the time
– have extreme limitations of activity
– have tried splinting and other methods of treatment which haven’t worked

An easy way to help with the pain – no doctor visit required!

The key is to lift your baby with your palms up as much as possible. This position is called supination. It’s not always possible to do this with both hands, but alternating one hand palm up and the other in the usual position will reduce the strain on your tendons.

Also, the more you can cradle the baby with your forearms, arm, and fingertips while relaxing your thumb (or wearing a splint), the less you’ll stress those tendons.


Surgery for mommy thumb or DeQuervain’s tenosynovitis is done as an outpatient, under mostly local anesthesia, and takes about six minutes in the operating room. Recovery is relatively quick and takes away the problem forever in most patients.

Are you ready to find relief for your hand and wrist pain and improve your quality of life? You may call us at (479) 521-2752 to request an appointment or click the button below.