Relieving Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in Pregnancy: Effective Strategies



Experiencing back pain, heartburn, and mood swings during pregnancy is expected, but one unexpected physical side effect that I encountered was carpal tunnel syndrome. It started around the halfway mark of my pregnancy when I began waking up with tingling hands. At first, I brushed it off, thinking it was due to sleeping in odd positions. But then, I started experiencing pain on the inner side of my wrist, just below my thumb. I jokingly referred to it as “phone thumb” and assumed it was because I was scrolling on my phone more than usual.

To find out if my condition was related to the hormone relaxin, which relaxes joints in preparation for labor, I consulted a relative who is an OB/GYN. Much to my surprise, she asked if I was also waking up with tingling hands. It turns out that both tingling and wrist pain are symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, which can occur during pregnancy and is unrelated to relaxin.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by pressure on the median nerve, which passes through a narrow passageway in the wrist called the carpal tunnel. This nerve is responsible for sensation in the hands and controlling thumb movements. Additionally, the tendons responsible for bending the fingers also pass through this tunnel. When there isn’t enough space in the carpal tunnel for these nerves and tendons to function properly, carpal tunnel syndrome occurs. Symptoms include tingling, numbness, pain, and weakness in the hand.

According to Tori Russell, an occupational therapist and certified hand therapist, carpal tunnel syndrome is typically caused by sustained pressure on the wrist. This can occur from activities such as prolonged mouse pad use, forceful wrist movements like biking, sleeping with flexed wrists, or swelling from various causes like pregnancy, arthritis, or injury.

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During pregnancy, carpal tunnel syndrome can be attributed to increased swelling or edema in the carpal tunnel. The additional fluids circulating in the body to support the fetus and joint lubrication put extra pressure on the already limited space in the tunnel. Additionally, pregnant individuals who engage in forceful or repetitive hand and finger movements may be more prone to developing carpal tunnel syndrome.

Women with smaller bone structures or who are more petite may also experience compression on the carpal tunnel, according to Russell. This was true for me, as I am 5 foot 1 and likely had smaller and more susceptible wrists.

Now, how can carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms be relieved during pregnancy? The good news is that if carpal tunnel syndrome only occurs during pregnancy, it will likely subside shortly after giving birth. However, if the symptoms persist one month postpartum, it is advisable to consult a doctor. In the meantime, there are several ways to find relief.

Russell recommends wearing a cock-up splint for bed and using tipless edema gloves during the day. Applying ice to the wrists for about five minutes at a time, both at night and multiple times throughout the day, can also help alleviate symptoms. It is important to incorporate heat, gentle stretching, and regular movement throughout the day. Raising the arms overhead can aid in reducing edema in the hands. Hand therapy, which may include fluid therapy, ultrasound, massage, manual stretching, and lymph mobilization, could be beneficial. Additionally, investing in adaptive equipment like larger-handled items or ergonomic workstations can make daily activities easier.

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Personally, I have found relief in wearing an ACE wrist splint, which provides support and reduces pain. It has become my trusted companion whenever I experience discomfort. Remember, if you are suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome during pregnancy, you are not alone. The pain and discomfort are usually temporary, although it is best not to mention this fact while experiencing pain, hunger, and fatigue.

In conclusion, carpal tunnel syndrome during pregnancy is a common occurrence, with swelling being the primary contributing factor. Although it can be bothersome, especially for petite individuals or those with smaller bone structures, there are various ways to find relief. By following the tips suggested by experts, it is possible to manage the symptoms and alleviate discomfort.



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