alt=a woman looks at the pain in her wrist

Dealing with Mommy Wrist and RA

Last updated: March 2022

Motherhood is physically draining. There is no doubt about that. However, I never thought being a young mom with RA would put me at risk of additional complications once my babies were here. With both my son and now my newest baby, I started having pain in my wrist at the base of my thumb a few months in. The pain made it hard to hold and lift objects, but I could tell it wasn’t typical RA pain. It felt like something entirely different. Now, I know I developed something called “mommy wrist” in congruence with my RA.

What is mommy wrist?

De Quervain’s Stenosing Tenosynovitis, “mommy wrist,” or “mother’s thumb” as it is commonly referred to, is tendonitis of the wrist and thumb.1,2 It gets its nickname because it’s a common complaint in caretakers of young children, such as mothers and nannies. Mommy wrist is caused when the sheath of the tendon that connects the thumb and wraps around the side of the wrist becomes inflamed causing pain and weakness.1 Pain is most often felt in repetitive motions when turning the wrist sideways while gripping such as when lifting up small children. You might have mommy wrist if you experience any of the following:2

  • Pain at the base of the thumb that wraps around the side of the wrist
  • Pain or difficulty using the thumb to pinch or grasp
  • Clicking or “sticking” when moving the wrist or thumb

Who is at risk?

Mommy wrist is caused by an overuse of the wrist during repetitive motions such as lifting small children, texting, golfing, hammering, gardening, etc.2 That being said, caretakers of young children are often at risk but anyone can develop it.

Other causes that increase the risk of developing mommy wrist include having a preexisting inflammatory disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

How is it diagnosed?

A simple physical exam to test for pain and range of motion is all that's needed to see if someone has developed mommy wrist. Additionally, x-rays may be completed by your doctor to rule out other issues.

Treatment options

There are some at home remedies to try to treat mommy wrist that have brought me relief in my own experience.1 Obviously it’s best to consult your doctor if you have any pain and get it checked out, but this is what helped me.

Apply ice

Using ice for 10 to 15 minutes throughout the day has helped with the pain and inflammation on my wrist. Since mommy wrist is caused by inflammation, ice is preferred over heat.

Modify how you lift

Modifying how I lifted the baby as best as I can has made the most difference in pain. Instead of lifting under the armpits which puts strain on the wrist, I try to lift with my arm scooping under his back. I also switch which arm is supporting his head or bottom when he's seated upright to even out the usages across both wrists.

Use a wrist splint

The best way to help mommy wrist heal is to let the tendon rest. This is almost impossible as a mom or caretaker. However, using a wrist splint that supports the wrist and wraps around the base of the thumb helps immobilize the joint is a good way to let it heal without ceasing to use it.

Take an anti-inflammatory

Taking an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen has helped reduce the pain especially at night. As always, consult your doctor before taking anything for pain in this case.

After some time of babying (no pun intended) my painful wrist and putting these home remedies into place, it started to feel better. Mommy wrist is something I will need to keep an eye on as I am sure it will come and go with my RA. However, at this point I feel as if I have the tools to manage it because like in the case of having small children, it ends before you know it.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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