At OrthoConnecticut Coastal Orthopedics, we’ve seen first-hand what a toll motherhood can take on your body. As Mother’s Day approaches, we want to extend our appreciation for all the hard work you do in the best way we know how — offering some quick tips on the most common orthopedic conditions we see in moms, including how you can prevent and treat them. From the new moms, the veteran moms, the active moms, and every mom in between, we appreciate you!
1. DeQuervain’s Tenosynovitis (“Mother’s Wrist”)
If you’re like most moms, you probably spend a lot of time picking up and holding your kids — and all their gear. If you start to experience pain or swelling over the thumb side of the wrist that tends to get worse with any gripping, grabbing, or lifting motions, you may have DeQuervain’s Tenosynovitis. This happens when friction occurs between the tendons and the sheaths they guide through between your wrist and thumb.
To prevent DeQuervain’s, try to avoid repetitive thumb-extending motions. Using a brace that holds your wrist and thumb steady can help you keep your wrist in a neutral (straight) position to help if you already have this condition.
If you start experiencing pain, anti-inflammatories such as Advil or Aleve can help reduce any swelling. If the pain persists, a healthcare provider can administer a local steroid injection. Surgical intervention is only required in rare cases. Visit our Hand Center if you think you may have this condition.
2. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is another orthopedic injury that can result from overuse of the wrist. Unlike DeQuervain’s, carpal tunnel doesn’t affect the tendons — the pain instead comes from pressure on the median nerve.
This condition is often seen in pregnancy or in mothers postpartum due to the extra fluid in the wrist (and everywhere else). Usually, the pain presents as a shock-like feeling or numbness (“pins and needles” in the thumb, index, and middle fingers. Some individuals experience weakness in their hands and have trouble with fine-motor tasks, such as buttoning clothes. For most individuals, the pain also tends to be worse during the nighttime.
If you think you may have carpal tunnel syndrome, it is important to address it in a timely manner — as leaving this condition untreated can lead to permanent numbness or weakness in your hand/wrist.
A wrist brace, typically worn at night, can help you keep your wrist steady and avoid pain from overuse. Anti-inflammatories like Advil or Aleve can reduce the swelling that leads to pressure on the nerve, but local steroid injections can also help if more acute treatment is necessary. In more severe cases, a small surgical procedure can be performed to create more room in the tunnel. Dr. Shulman even performs carpal tunnel surgery “wide awake” in the office!
3. Lateral Epicondylitis (“Tennis Elbow”)
This is another overuse injury that leads to the degeneration and microtearing of the tendons that attach at the elbow. With this condition, motions like lifting, gripping, and grasping can lead to pain at the outer part of the elbow. Tennis elbow is just as common in golfers and other athletes-don’t let the term confuse you!
The repetitive motions of picking up your child from the floor, lifting your baby into the crib, or carrying your child (or their heavy car seat) to and from the car can all contribute to the development of tennis elbow.
Unfortunately, tennis elbow isn’t the simplest condition to fix. This particular tendon doesn’t get a great blood supply, which inhibits the healing process. However, physical therapy, stretching, and anti-inflammatories can all help to reduce pain. A tennis elbow brace can also help to take pressure off the tendon. If pain persists, more aggressive treatment options involve platelet-rich plasma injections and, in most severe cases, surgery.
4. Lower Back Pain
It should come as no surprise that lower back pain is very common in mothers of all ages. Motions like bending forward to gently set your baby in the crib without startling them awake, crouching down on the floor to crawl into your child’s blanket fort, hoisting kids in and out of highchairs, and sitting in awkward positions while breastfeeding can all contribute to lower back pain.
We know that you can’t just avoid picking up and carrying your child, but keeping the following tips in mind while doing so can help to minimize extra pressure on your back:
● Bend at your knees, not at your waist, when picking up your child.
● Try to avoid picking up your child with outstretched arms. Instead, bring them close to your chest before lifting.
● When breastfeeding, keep your back straight and bring your baby to you rather than hunching forward. Putting a pillow or bolster under your baby can help.
● Try to avoid carrying your child on your hip for an extended period of time. For long walks, consider carrying on your front or back instead.
If you start experiencing lower back pain, anti-inflammatories and physical therapy focusing on core strengthening can help alleviate it. If symptoms persist and/or if you develop numbness, tingling, or weakness in your legs, you should consult your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
5. Patellofemoral Syndrome “Chondromalacia”; “Anterior Knee Pain”
As a busy mom, it can be tough to squeeze in those workouts —especially during the postpartum phase. You may be relying on quick, high-intensity workouts when you can manage to fit them in. Intermittent workout routines with squats, lunges, and burpees can, unfortunately, set you up for injuries, such as patellofemoral syndrome. Patellofemoral syndrome is a condition in which the kneecap doesn’t track perfectly in its groove on the femur. It tends to present as anterior knee pain that is worse with stairs or after getting up from a seated position. You may also feel or hear a crunching sensation under your knees.
The best treatment for patellofemoral syndrome is to limit activities that involve deep knee bending such as squats, lunges, weight knee extension, and using stairs/stairmaster. As with the others, taking anti-inflammatories like Advil or Aleve can be helpful too.
Beyond that, physical therapy is often very helpful in strengthening the muscles around your knee, which allows your kneecap to track better. Cortisone injections and lubricating gel injections are other alternatives if more conservative measures aren’t effective.
OrthoConnecticut Coastal Orthopedics is Here to Keep Moms Moving
Moms, we know how demanding your most important job can be, and putting your own health first can feel like an impossible task. We hope these tips can help make your very busy lives a little bit easier. If you still find yourself struggling to manage pain on your own, make an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists or walk into one of our OrthoCare Express locations.
From the entire team here at OrthoConnecticut Coastal Orthopedics, thank you, moms, for all that you do — and have a wonderful Mother’s Day!