That hand pain you feel? It could be “mommy thumb”

Published: Jan. 6, 2011

LANSING, Mich. - Lifting that baby may not just cause an aching back: it may also be prompting pain in the hand that's referred to as mommy thumb, according to Sparrow and Michigan State University plastic surgeon and hand specialist James Clarkson, M.D.

Clarkson says he's treated young mothers with thumb pain associated with lifting their children.

Mommy thumb was recently profiled in The Wall Street Journal and is being seen by physicians throughout the country. It is a form of tendinitis, an inflammation of the tendons below the thumb to the wrist. The ailment is formally known as De Quervain's tendinitis.

"I see several young moms per year with thumb pain usually caused by De Quervain's," Clarkson says.

And the younger generation isn't the only one suffering from constantly picking up babies and toddlers. Grandmothers are more prone to arthritis in the thumb area when they do "granny day care," according to Clarkson.

Hand-wrist ailments, such as mommy thumb, basal joint arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome, are more prevalent in women, perhaps because of the kind of work they perform or due to their natural physiology, he says.

Surgery, local steroid injections or a hand brace can aid those with mommy thumb, says Clarkson, who practices at Sparrow through the MSU College of Human Medicine, Department of Surgery.

Some patients may have a combination of several hand-wrist ailments, Clarkson says.

"My job is to make the most accurate diagnosis so we can make the most difference with the least risk to the patient," he says.