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The Forgotten Pregnancy Side Effect- Carpal Tunnel!

Most people don't associate carpal tunnel syndrome with pregnancy, but it is a far more prevalent drawback than you'd think...

Did You Know?

It’s no secret that pregnancy can come with a laundry list of side effects that we have all come to expect: sleeplessness, swelling, weight gain, back pain etc. However, one of the conditions that most people are not expecting is hand pain! While Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is widely known as a common hand condition, specifically among middle age and elderly adults and those in professions requiring frequent hand movements, it is also commonly seen in pregnant women. In fact, one study suggests that as many as 62% of women can experience Carpal Tunnel Syndrome during their pregnancy (read more here).

Carpal Tunnel is characterized by the tingling, numbness, or weakness in the hands caused by nerve compression at the wrist. Typically, this pressure on the median nerve is caused by frequent/overuse of the hands and wrists in occupations like secretary work, cooks, mechanics, and gamers (check out our blog, 5 Common Causes of Carpal Tunnel (That Aren’t Typing)). In pregnant women, CTS is generally caused by the regular swelling that can come with pregnancy, usually peaking at the third trimester. In combination with frequent and repeated hand movements, the symptoms can become more noticeable and recurrent. The tingling and numbness can be annoying and sometimes painful, while the weakness makes sufferers unable to pick up, open or hold simple household items. To pregnant women, the inability to open shower gifts, hold a fork at lunch time or fold baby clothes for the nursery can be extremely irritating!

Relief

Obviously, Carpal Tunnel Release surgery is off the table while pregnant. Luckily, the symptoms generally subside sometime after the baby is born, depending on your level of continued swelling and water retention. In the meantime, here are a few other suggestions to help combat the symptoms:

  • Stretching: stretching out the hands, fingers and wrists helps strengthen your body and can certainly help you feel some relief from the CTS hand/wrist pain. Check out some at home wrist stretches here.
  • Reduce Use: While this suggestion is effective, it can be difficult to avoid the repeated movements that elevate Carpal Tunnel symptoms, especially if they are required for your job. Taking short breaks whenever possible or adjusting hand posture can be the key to feeling some relief.
  • Splinting: Wearing a wrist splint at night or while sleeping can help restrict your hand and wrist movements by keeping your wrist neutral, reducing the painful sensations.
  • Other Swelling Reduction Tactics: Reducing swelling throughout the body can help to relieve CTS symptoms. Daily routine modifications such as: reducing salt intake, drinking tons of water and doing cold water hand soaks can all aid in swelling reduction.

Need more help? Contact any of our hand surgery office locations to set up an appointment with one of our hand experts!

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Richard M. Singer, M.D.

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Jeffrey M. Hall, M.D., FACS

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E. Aron L. Haass, D.O., FACOS, CAQH

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