I cannot bend my thumb, do I have mother’s thumb? 

The term mother’s thumb refers to de Quervain’s tenosynovitis. The condition involves swelling of the tendons around the base of the thumb. Swelling can also occur in the tendon sheath, which covers the tendons.


Why do I have this pain?

Repetitive movement and overuse of the thumb can be one of the causes of this condition. It is caused by irritation or constriction of the tendons which could result in swelling. This swelling can cause pain, tenderness, and limited movement around the thumb and wrist.



Who is at higher risk?

As the name suggests, mothers are normally at risk for this condition due to specific activities that may incite complaints eg. wringing a washcloth or lifting a child. Other movements that may increase risk include hammering a nail and gripping a golf club.


What are the symptoms?

  • A dull or sharp pain, which may come on slowly or suddenly
  • Increased pain with thumb or wrist movements
  • Stiffness on wrist or forearm movements
  • A “catching” or “snapping” sensation when moving the thumb
  • Swelling, which may make hand movements difficult
  • Redness or warmth around the affected area
  • A fluid-filled cyst by the affected area


What can I do if I have the symptoms?


  • Thermotherapy (ice pack to reduce inflammation)
  • Wearing a splint to support the thumb and limit wrist movement.
  • Avoid repetitive wrist or thumb movements and activities that will trigger the pain.
  • Wrist and thumb stretching.



Hubbard MJ, Hildebrand BA, Battafarano MM, Battafarano DF. Common Soft Tissue Musculoskeletal Pain Disorders. Prim Care. 2018 Jun;45(2):289-303.

Shuaib W, Mohiuddin Z, Swain FR, Khosa F. Differentiating common causes of radial wrist pain. JAAPA. 2014 Sep;27(9):34-6


Article by

Jing Yu


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