So what’s the worst thing with Mommy Thumb (De Quervain)? When you have had it for a year, and you are NOT even a mother. Sigh.
All my life I had wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon, specializing in hand surgery. I even interned at Singapore General Hospital under the Hand Surgery department. As life would have it, I became the perfect orthopedic PATIENT instead. Not only do I suffer from De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, I also have temporomandibular joint disorder, lordosis, and scoliosis. The pain is constant, and I just learned to live with it.
The first time I felt THE wrist pain, it was quite shocking. I was going to pick up our dog to take him potty, when suddenly, my right distal radius exploded with pain. I felt pretty bad that I dropped the dog, but my brain was more busy dealing with “OMG, I think I have De Quervain’s” to actually care that much. I knew what that pain meant seconds after experiencing it.
Since De Quervain’s was the latest development in my daily pain torture, I just shrugged it off. I got some wrist support, which I know isn’t the same as a thumb splint. I tried to consciously avoid certain thumb/wrist positions because I knew they would produce the telltale sharp pain, but mostly I lived the same way. Months later, the pain on my wrist has dulled, but it’s because my threshold for pain has increased. The tendon was still screaming for help. It has gotten so bad that I wake up from sleep because I bent my wrist and/or thumb the wrong way, causing intense pain.
Almost a year after that faithful (painful?) day, I finally got some thumb splints from Amazon. I also started applying some topical NSAIDs and icing it. Unfortunately, I knew that I was a year too late. The dull, chronic pain has been constant. I dropped a lot of things throughout the months, shattering several drinking glasses in the process. Texting has been annoying. Grabbing and carrying heavy things are distant memories. And the list goes on.
I was desperate enough to start immobilizing it, but wearing the thumb splint in the morning is mentally excruciating since I CANNOT use my right thumb at all. You have no clue how much longer I typed this post with the goddamn thing on. It is so hard to function without a thumb. Forget about cooking. Texting is now left-handed affair. I can’t hold a pen. After a week of owning the thumb splint, I just gave up using it in the morning and just wore it at night.
As a patient, I am the very worst kind.
As a doctor though, I just want to tell people to NOT do what I did. Do not ignore it. Do not continue using it. Buy the thumb splint ASAP. Rest and ice it. Had I not ignored it for a year, I’m sure the swelling would have subsided and wouldn’t continue to produce this dull, constant pain.