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What are Nursing Mothers Disorders?  

Breastfeeding is widely recognized as one of the best way to feed an infant. It protects the mother and the infant from a variety of health problems. However, women who breastfeed their children may experience pain or injury during pregnancy or postpartum. For example, carpal tunnel syndrome is commonly associated with pregnancy, beginning during or after birth. It may resolve after weaning, or it may require observation, conservative or surgical measures.

HandSport Surgery Institute is the premier practice for hand and upper extremity surgery. If you find your hand, wrist, or elbow injured while breastfeeding, contact Drs. Mark and Jason Pruzansky for a thorough examination.

Types of Nursing Mothers Disorders Injuries

It is possible for mothers to sustain repetitive stress injuries to their arms, which may be related to excessively flexed hand, wrist, and elbow positions during breastfeeding. De Quervain’s tendinitis is noted among mothers with children 6-12 months old., although it occurs earlier and later as well. It may be aggravated by the lifting of a rapidly growing infant in those parents who inherit this predisposition.

Common conditions and injuries to the arm while nursing an infant include:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: pain, numbness, and tingling in the hand and arm.
  • De Quervain’s tendinitis: tendinosis occurs when the tendons around the base of the thumb are irritated.
  • Trigger finger: pain, stiffness, and a sensation of locking or catching when you bend and straighten your finger.
  • Flexor tendinitis of the hands and wrists: inflammation of tendons and tendon sheath.
  • Sprains of the interphalangeal joint of the fingers: sprains to the fingers.
  • Metacarpophalangeal joint spraind: injury to ligaments surrounding the knuckle of the finger closest to the hand called the  MCP joint.
  • Wrist ligaments: injury to the ligaments in the wrist from overuse and falls.
  • Elbow ligaments: injury to the ligaments in the elbow from overuse and falls.

Characteristics and Clinical Presentation of Nursing Mothers Disorders

Breastfeeding isn’t easy. Mothers with new and developing infants can sustain a variety of chronic injuries to their wrist, arm, and elbow. Some injuries are easily distinguishable due to swelling and inflammation. However, most require a medical evaluation from an experienced hand surgeon for a prompt and correct diagnosis and treatment plan.

Clinical presentation of nursing mother disorders is similar to injuries sustained while engaging in recreational sports. Symptoms of injury while breastfeeding may include:

  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Weakness
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Subluxation and misalignment that may be painful
  • Wrist not performing correctly/giving away
  • Clicking sound when the wrist or elbow is moved

Causes of Nursing Mothers Disorders

New mothers may sustain chronic overuse injuries to their hand, wrist, or elbow while breastfeeding due to repetitive movements of the arm. Hormonally in induced ligamentous laxity makes joints prone to strain. Some injuries may occur during pregnancy or postpartum due to inflammation and swelling around nerves.

Injuries sustained while nursing during everyday activities is the result of chronic poor posture and body mechanics while performing everyday routines contributing to strain injuries.

These activities include:

  • Lifting a child from the crib, carrier or floor.
  • Activities of daily living.
  • Carrying a child.
  • Carrying and maneuvering with child safety gear.

Getting a Diagnosis for Nursing Mothers Disorders

Mothers who experience pain in their hand, wrist, or elbow ought to seek medical intervention. An experienced hand surgeon may order an X-ray for visualizing damage to musculoskeletal structures for possible fractures. An MRI is sometimes useful to visualize the extent of damage to soft tissue.

If you experience pain following an activity or injury while breastfeeding, you seek immediate medical attention from a medical professional.

Treatment Options for Nursing Mother’s Disorders

Many nursing mother’s disorders may be treated with conservative methods. This is because many motherhood disorders of this nature are due to chronic overuse rather than acute trauma. Patients who have been cleared by their surgeon may rest their arm following an injury and minimize initially strenuous activity. The R.I.C.E method is also helpful:

  • Rest: avoid heavy use of your elbow or wrist while it is healing.
  • Ice: use an ice pack for 5-10 minutes sparingly during the day.
  • Compression: prudently applied compression bandages may help reduce swelling.
  • Elevation: keep your injured area above your heart to reduce swelling.

Conservative Treatments

Typically, nursing mother’s disorders can be treated with rest, reduced use of the painful area,  or with gentle physical therapy. Splints or slings may be recommended to rest the arm until the injury is sufficiently resolved. Uncomplicated injuries may be treated with immobilization techniques with a cast or a splint. Fingers may be buddy-taped to promote healing during the immobilization stage.

Surgical Treatments

Surgery is not typically required to treat nursing mothers. However, in the event that surgical intervention is required, torn or damaged ligaments can be operated on to relieve pain and restore mobility and range of motion. Such cases involve carpal tunnel syndrome, severe tendonitis, and fractures and ruptured ligaments. Regional anesthesia and minimally invasive surgical techniques tend to minimize functional and breast milk compromises.

Preventing an Injury while Nursing a Baby

In order to prevent injury while nursing an infant, mother’s should pay attention to body mechanics while breastfeeding. Some may need to be modified by body posture or position, or with the use of motherhood tools such as baby slings. Nursing mothers may also benefit from:

  • Paying attention to positioning and body mechanics while nursing. Try to support your infant with a minimally bent wrist.
  • Using a baby sling for support.
  • Breastfeeding partially lying down.
  • Using a wrist brace to keep your wrist in a neutral position.

Prognosis for Nursing Mothers Disorders

Mothers are generally able to return to normal activity after a few weeks of modified activity or rest to the affected region when conservative treatment options are used. Surgical options may require a brief period of immobilization or splinting, followed by physical therapy. Splints may be recommended during sleeping hours or as long as they can be tolerated during the day for inflammation and strains. Modifications to body mechanics may reduce future injuries while lifting children.

HandSport Institute often advises physical or occupational therapy in order to optimize proper hand and arm mechanics. Range of motion may be affected in chronic injuries that do not receive proper medical treatment.

If You Believe You Have a Nursing Mothers Disorders Contact HandSport Surgery Institute

Please contact us to schedule an appointment with our talented team if you are suffering. Women experiencing nursing mother’s disorders should be evaluated to try and reduce further injury and mobility issues.

If you have a painful or uncomfortable condition, it’s important to be evaluated by a highly skilled professional. Call Drs. Mark and Jason Pruzansky at 212-249-8700 to schedule an appointment, obtain an accurate diagnosis, and start to restore comfort to your hand.

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