• The Hand Physio Clinic

De Quervain's Tenosynovitis - a new mum's first hand experience

As any parent will tell you, newborn babies are a lot of work. A lot. Mums and Dads are on call 24 hours a day to meet every need of newborns. Feed, play, sleep with nappy changes likely in between all steps - rinse and repeat.


Whilst there are many joys and precious moments with newborns, parents can often develop wrist pain for a number of reasons. They can often develop inflammation in one or both wrists, due to holding your baby in a prolonged position whilst breast feeding and frequent soothing and settling.


What is De Quervain’s tenosynovitis?

De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is inflammation of the two tendons that cross your wrist and thumb. It is caused by repetitive wrist movement or holding your wrist in a prolonged position.


How does De Quervain’s develop?


The Hand Physio Clinic recently diagnosed and treated new Mum. Within two weeks of welcoming baby to the world, Mum had developed minor wrist pain, and as most mums would do, she prioritised her baby's needs over her own. A few days later, the pain had worsened:

It got to the point where any slight wrist movement would make me wince in pain. Then I started to over-compensate on my other wrist, and both wrists felt inflamed.

At The Hand Physio Clinic, we live by our "Diagnose. Treat. Recover." mantra, and take all our patients on this journey.


How is De Quervain’s diagnosed?


Knowing that specialist care was needed, Mum was referred to The Hand Physio Clinic by her GP. The Head Physiotherapist, Susan Tran (and mum of two!), saw the signs of De Quervain's before Mum had even sat down in the treatment room:

Time and time again, I've seen new mothers that have a thousand things to do and think about. The last thing they need is to be in pain whilst caring for their baby.

Susan Tran, Head Physiotherapist at The Hand Physio Clinic


The diagnosis was swift and Susan begins to educate Mum. "Signs and symptoms include pain across your wrist and thumb, swelling around your wrist and/or reduced wrist movement if the pain is severe. Pain usually worsens overtime if not treated, and hand physiotherapy is a proven treatment."


How is De Quervain’s treated?


Our Hand Therapist assessed Mum's wrist to decide what treatment she needed. Treatments can include:

  • Fabricating a custom-made thermoplastic splint

  • Taping

  • Exercises to help reduce pain and improve wrist control

  • Education on modifying activity

In our case of Mum, her advanced condition required education of triggers, prevention and a combination of taping and fabrication of a custom splint.

We tailored the treatment to Mum's lifestyle and needs. The taping was used during the day when Mum needed her hands the most. This limited wrist movement and reminded Mum to take it easy on the wrists. Then a splint was fashioned so that her fingers are mobile, but the unwanted wrist movement is much more restricted.

Above: A custom made thermoplastic splint


How long does it take to recover from De Quervain’s tenosynovitis?


Whilst recovery generally takes 4 to 6 weeks, Mum had some immediate relief with the taping and splint. The therapists at The Hand Physio Clinic were able to diagnose, treat and help Mum recover as quickly as possible. Dad had stepped up to the plate, taking on even more home and baby duties, and tirelessly reminded Mum to avoid De Quervain's triggers.


Do I need to see a Doctor?

No, you don’t need a Doctor referral to see a Hand Therapist about this condition. Working closely with Hand Surgeons, your Hand Therapist will let you know if they think you need to see one for a surgical opinion.

If you are experiencing wrist pain and like to see our Hand Physiotherapists, get in touch with our physio clinics located across Sydney. We have locations conveniently at Concord, Lidcombe, Marrickville or Chester Hill.

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