So what is “Baby-Holders Syndrome” anyway? It is a fairly common condition in the tendonitis family where the tendons that control the back of the thumb get swollen and irritated. The sheath (think: tube) that covers the tendon actually fills up with a thick fluid. This fluid makes it very difficult and painful for the tendons to move and glide as they are supposed to. This was dubbed “baby-holders syndrome” because it can be common in mothers of newborns because of the way we typically hold babies with our thumb extended. I actually see it quite often in people who develop it from repetitive activities at work as well. The medical name for it is DeQuervain’s Tenosynovitis.
So how do we get rid of it? There is a surgery for it that works very well, but it can be a long and painful recovery. If you treat it early, there’s a good chance that you can get rid of it without surgery.
So to start treatment, I will usually make a custom molded splint that holds the thumb and wrist still. This allows the tendons to rest, which will help reduce the inflammation. If the pain is high enough, we may start with wearing this full time for a week or two. Then, we start gentle, pain-free, range of motion exercises. This helps move the tendons through that fluid-filled sheath in a way that helps continue to reduce inflammation rather than increasing it.
There are many other treatments that can be provided for this condition by a certified hand therapist. If you think you may be experiencing this problem, either from holding a baby or from something else, find your local certified hand therapist!