Pregnancy can have its challenges. Backaches, swollen hands or feet and frequent trips to the bathroom to name a few. In addition to these “discomforts”, it looks like expectant moms can add one more thing to the list – Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Evidently, moms-to-be are more susceptible in developing this condition, too. So, if your wrist aches, your hands are numb or your fingers are tingling, you may have pregnancy-induced Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. (CTS) Here is some information on the causes, symptoms and safe treatment options for CTS in pregnancy.
What Causes Carpal Tunnel in Pregnancy
A recent study revealed that Carpal Tunnel Syndrome occurs in a whopping 31% – 62% of pregnant women. (It occurs in only about 4% of the general population.) Although the exact cause for such a high rate of CTS during pregnancy is unknown, risk factors include gestational diabetes, high blood sugar levels or hypertension. The most likely cause, though, is thought to be due to hormone-related swelling.
Just as fluid retention in pregnancy can cause your hands and ankles to swell, pregnancy can also cause swelling in the wrist. Your wrist bones form an arch that make up the top of your carpal “tunnel” and the bottom of the tunnel is a thick ligament that helps hold it open. The tendons that bend your fingers and the nerve that supplies the muscles and feeling to your fingers pass through this tunnel. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in pregnancy is thought to happen when fluid retention causes the nerve to be pinched in this tight space. When this “median” nerve is compressed, symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can develop.
Common Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Swollen fingers- which can make it difficult to button a shirt or close the clasp on your jewelry
- Numbness in your thumb, index finger, middle finger and ring finger
- Tingling, pins and needles feeling, in your fingers and hands- which may worsen at night
- Weakened grip strength– frequently dropping things
Treatment of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome During Pregnancy
Most doctors recommend treating CTS conservatively in pregnancy with non-surgical treatments. This is because the majority of women will experience relief in the weeks and months after giving birth. Simple measures like rest, taking acetaminophen and splinting (wearing a brace) are standard treatment and usually bring relief.
CTS Treatment Options:
- Rest – Whenever you feel pain or fatigue in your wrist, take a break and rest it for a bit, or switch to a different activity all together. Taking frequent breaks, as well as making changes to how you do certain daily activities can be helpful in relieving your symptoms. Elevating your wrists whenever you can by propping them up with pillows can also help.
- Pain Relievers– Always check with your doctor before taking any medications, but generally acetaminophen is considered safe during pregnancy in low doses. Taking an acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, can help reduce the aches and pain in your hands and wrist.
- Wearing a Brace – Wearing a wrist splint or brace that provides support to your wrist and sometimes your fingers, can help decrease the swelling and reduces the pressure on the median nerve. Look for a brace that keeps your wrist in a neutral position (not bent). Carpal Tunnel symptoms can often feel the worst at night or right after you wake up. A comfortable padded brace that can be worn during the day and at night as well is always a good option.
One option is the Fix Comfort Wrist Brace. Cushioned with a triple layer of padded foam and covered with soft velour, the Fix Comfort Wrist Brace helps to relieve Carpal Tunnel Syndrome symptoms with ultimate comfort and without restricting finger and thumb motion. It offers excellent wrist control without being bulky and is comfortable to wear all day and night.
Most women will see their symptoms resolve within 12 months after delivery. However, symptoms may persist if you are breastfeeding. If they do, it’s important to consult with your ob/gyn or health care provider.
In severe cases, if your nerve remains compressed after delivery and breastfeeding, it can result in permanent nerve damage. You may need to be referred to a hand specialist or hand surgeon for alternative treatments such as physical therapy or carpal tunnel surgery. If recommended, a simple outpatient carpal tunnel release surgery can be very successful for permanent relief.
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Our blogs are educational in nature and are not intended as a substitute for medical advice. Because your condition is unique to you, it is recommended that you consult with your health care provider before attempting any medical or therapeutic treatments. We are always happy to answer questions about products mentioned in our blogs, however, we cannot provide a diagnosis or medical advice.
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