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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome & Pregnancy: Pregnancy Induced Swelling Can Affect Hands, Wrists

Beyond the backaches, leg cramps, and general discomfort, many pregnant women are surprised to discover that pain in the hands and wrists can also be a symptom of pregnancy.

Is it Carpal Tunnel?

In the age of computer, carpal tunnel syndrome has become almost synonymous with “wrist pain.” Just because a wrist or hand is sore, however, does not mean a diagnosis of carpal tunnel is imminent. Some tingling and pain may result from other tendon problems or simply over- (or improper) use. Adjust the desk chair so that wrists are held just above the keyboard (not angled downward, but held flat) and keep good posture while working at a desk. If symptoms continue, consult a doctor.

Numbness, tingling, burning, pain, or a dull ache in the fingers, hands, or wrists can be an indicator of carpal tunnel. In some cases, discomfort may radiate upward to the arm and shoulder. In more advanced cases, hands may feel weak or clumsy as well. Other symptoms may include:

  • sharp pains shooting from the wrist either upwards or downwards
  • morning stiffness and cramping
  • thumb weakness
  • waking at night with hand pain and numbness
  • numbness while driving

What Does Carpal Tunnel Have to Do with Pregnancy?

BabyCenter explains that “the carpal tunnel is a bony canal formed by the wrist bones on three sides and a ligament that runs across the wrist on the other.” As pregnant women’s bodies swell in places and retain water, delicate areas like the carpal tunnel can be affected. Added pressure from fluid buildup can compress the median nerve that runs through the carpal tunel, sending pain throughout the hand, fingers, and arm.

Unfortunately, it’s not an uncommon condition for pregnant women. PregnancyToday claims that 28% of pregnant women will experience carpal tunnel syndrome, usually toward the end of the second trimester and throughout the third. Most women who develop this condition during pregnancy will see their symptoms ease and disappear after the baby is born. Unless symptoms were present before pregnancy, it’s unlikely they will return again.

How to Get Easy, Safe Pain Relief

Since the condition is most likely temporary and will disappear after delivery, long-term remedies like surgery or physical therapy are rarely necessary. Avoiding forceful, repetitive hand movements can lessen strain. Also take frequent breaks to stretch out the arms and hands. Some exercise regimens, like yoga, will strengthen the hands and are safe for pregnant women to try.

Try some of these suggested techniques, from the experts at Netmums, to get some relief:

  • Hold up the hand and stretch the fingers as hard as possible, then relax. Repeat 10 times.
  • Squeeze the hand into a fist, then relax. Repeat 10 times.
  • Move the wrist in a circular motion, then shake the hand downwards in flicking movement.
  • Immerse the hand in ice-cold then hot water (be careful not to burn it!)
  • Sleep with the hard and arm elevated.
  • Ask the doctor about an appropriate wrist brace.

If symptoms persist or worsen, and daily tasks become difficult or impossible, consult a doctor. He or she may advise cortisone shots or ultrasound treatments to help ease symptoms. Also be sure to check with a doctor before using any kind of pain-relieving medication, as many are harmful if ingested during pregnancy.

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