Nov 21, 2013

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Pregnancy Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

pregnancy carpal tunnel
Pregnancy is one of the many attributes that can cause carpal tunnel syndrome, due to the changes in hormone levels, which can cause a woman to experience fluid buildup in her body. The carpal tunnel is a tunnel in the wrist and forearm that includes the median nerve and nine flexor tendons that surround the nerve. Here is where the fluid can build, around the tendons and tissues that aid in lubricating the tendons to allow for them to glide smoothly through the carpal tunnel. If any or each of these nine tendons swell up, they pinch the median nerve, which in turn causes numbing, tingling and sometimes pain.

According to the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, pregnancy carpal tunnel syndrome is a very frequent complication for pregnant women. They reported that nearly 62% of pregnancies experience some form of carpal tunnel syndrome symptom or pain. The most typical symptoms include numbness and tingling of the thumb, index, middle and ring fingers. Wrist pain, loss of grip strength and dexterity has also been reported. Median nerve function is impaired in nearly all-pregnant women during the third trimester, even when symptoms are absent. Most women experience symptom improvement following delivery of their child, with a significant percentage of symptom issues up to at least 3 years post-partum and continue to wear splints or wrist braces.

Treatment Options for Pregnancy Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

• Wrist Splints – The wrist splint keeps the wrist in the same neutral position and can be worn both day and night. Typically, individuals will wear them during the nighttime while sleeping to prevent the wrist from bending. Within a couple of weeks, most pregnant women will notice an improvement in their symptoms after they wear the splint. Wrist splints can be bought over-the-counter at pharmacies, or from a provider such as the aPallo Wrist Brace System.
• Resting the Hand and Wrist – The more your hands and wrists are at wrist and in a neutral position, the greater the chance of relieving the carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms.
• Control the Symptoms – Repetitive hand and wrist movements can cause carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms to flare up. Make sure to take breaks from constant movement to allow the hand and wrist to rest and recover. Typing, driving, texting and similar activities can cause the pain or numbness to increase if break periods are not taken to rest.
• Cold Compresses – Placing an ice pack during any symptom experiences may help to alleviate pain and tingling. With the aPallo Wrist Brace System, a small compartment area allows for you to utilize a cold compress to ease the carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms.
• Medications – It is considered safe for pregnant women to take an injectable steroid. These injections are applied directly into the carpal tunnel to significantly reduce symptoms. Depending on the conditions and response to the initial corticosteroid injection, the doctor may suggest a return visit for another one. If injections are not advisable, corticosteroids are available in oral tablet form; however, the injections are considered most effective for treatment of the conditions.

Birthing Positions for Women with CTS

During the laboring process, pregnant women with carpal tunnel syndrome should consider positioning techniques that will aid in alleviating the discomforts associated with the symptoms and pain. For example, if you are leaning forward on your arms on a laboring ball make sure to lean on clenched fists or lean on your forearms. The idea is to keep the wrists as straight as possible to keep from experiencing any numbing sensations or pain.

Another birthing position to consider includes lying with your wrists resting on two pillows beside of you, particularly in between contractions. This will allow for your forearms to rest between birthing activities.

Breastfeeding Positions for Women with CTS

Post-partum, some women continue to have symptoms related to carpal tunnel syndrome. In some cases, after giving birth, women may end up developing carpal tunnel and should seek treatment options.

While breastfeeding, mothers who experience numbing or tingling sensations should develop holding positions that make the experience enjoyable, yet comfortable.

When sitting, make sure to sit up straight in a supportive chair and place a pillow underneath the baby to support his/her body. This will give the mother much more room for movement and helps the arms support the baby, rather than actually holding the baby up. Once the baby has begun breastfeeding, support the baby’s head with the forearm rather than the hand.

Another position to consider is breastfeeding while lying down. This way, both the mother and they baby’s body are supported without the need to hold any weight in the mother’s arms. While lying flat, the mother should place a pillow behind her back and between her legs. Once comfortable, a small pillow or rolled up towel can be placed behind the baby’s back for extra support.

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  • Diamond Grant

    I experienced pregnancy related carpal tunnel and it was no fun. The fact that I am a freelance writer, meaning I heavily rely on typing, only exacerbated the issue. I ended up having to schedule rest periods and using a cold compress frequently as your blog post suggested and that helped a lot. Thankfully, the issue seemed to subside immediately after giving birth so I did not have problems while breastfeeding. I wish I would have known there was medication I could have taken though because that may have helped a lot more.

    • Stephanie Schneider

      The ePallo brace would have been so helpful to you since you applied cold compresses. I love the fact that it has a compartment to hold the cold compress. How often did you have to take breaks from typing? I am glad that the symptoms didn’t bother you anymore post-partum!

    • Danny

      The few times I have had a carpal tunnel flare up have been from overdoing it on the writing. My mother said she had issues with carpal tunnel while she was pregnant with me. I can only imaging how bad it must be with both of those working against you! Ouch!

  • Rebecca

    I actually just recently gave birth to my daughter back in February and I only wish I could have known all this back then. I never had to deal with this problem in the past so when I was pregnant, I wasn’t actually diagnosed until the very end. If only I had known these carpal tunnel syndrome treatment options 10 months ago, I would have been a little more comfortable during that very uncomfortable time. Next go around, I will definitely try the aPallo wrist brace system.

    • Jerry

      So you were experiencing carpal tunnel during your pregnancy, and the doctors didn’t know? That must have been awful! Did you have any of the postpartum issues that are discussed in the blog? I hope you don’t have to experience carpal tunnel pain again, but I am glad you have this information now just in case.

    • Rebecca

      Well at first is was just an uncomfortable pain in my wrists and as my pregnancy progressed, so did the pain. I didn’t even consider the fact that it was related to my pregnancy so I never brought it up to my doctor until the very end! Thankfully, I didn’t have postpartum issues. Next time around, at least I will know what to look for and to mention it to my doctor sooner if I begin to experience symptoms.

  • Jerry

    Wow! I had never heard of this relationship between pregnancy and carpal tunnel syndrome. Nearly 62% of pregnancies experience some form of this pain–that is way more than I ever would have expected. I am sure this advice will be very helpful for the large amount of women who experience this.

    • Rachel B

      I am shocked by the number too, Jerry! I had the warning signs and didn’t even know what it was. It looks like some of the other ladies commenting on this post experienced it too, so I guess it goes to show how common it can be after all.

    • Michele

      This number is shocking. I’ve never known anyone who was pregnant and experienced carpal tunnel syndrome.

  • Stephanie Schneider

    Would the stretching and exercises help with carpal tunnel symptoms during pregnancy? That ePallo brace sounds great! I love that there is a compartment for a cold compress, which makes it easy to ice the wrist. What a great feature! I also did not know that steroid shots could be given.

    • Julia

      Stretching exercises would definitely help carpal tunnel symptoms during pregnancy. Experiencing carpal tunnel during pregnancy isn’t much different than people who have it all the time except for the fact that a lot of times, it goes away shortly after giving birth. I actually used the aPollo brace while I was pregnant and it helped so much. I used an ice pack often as well so the compartment was a nice feature for me.

  • Rachel B

    I experienced this, but just shrugged it off as another weird pregnancy symptom. It can be hard to pinpoint pain and sources when everything is uncomfortable. Now that I have seen this blog though, it makes perfect sense. I would sleep with my arms on pillows to keep my wrists straight. I will certainly reference this blog if I have to deal with this again.

  • jem1997

    An obstetrician showed me another trick that may help pregnancy related CTS. Hold the hand of the pregnant woman by the fingers and gently shake the hand up and down — just as if you were shaking out a towel. The woman’s wrist should be as relaxed as possible during this “treatment”. After doing this, apply a wrist splint and you should be good to go!

    • Kellie

      I am wondering if this only works on pregnant women — or if others with carpal tunnel would also benefit from this technique? It seems as though there is probably no reason it should NOT work for others, too, but I don’t know if there are specific things about pregnancy that make this technique only work at that time?

    • NurseEJ

      Kellie — I think this same sort of technique (gently shaking out the joint) would probably work on others and not just pregnant women. I would think wearing a brace would probably prevent the need for this shaking maneuver, but it is a good one to keep in mind when nothing else will work.

    • Michele

      It would be interesting to find out if this works for more than just pregnant women.

    • T.J.

      I think it would provide at least temporary relief for anyone who is having carpal tunnel issues. Being mindful of the positions you have your hands and wrists in would also be helpful- whether you are pregnant or not. I think most of these tips could apply to any situation with a little modification.

  • Michele

    As someone who has never been pregnant before, this is a very interesting post. I never knew pregnancy and CTS could go hand and hand.

  • Danny

    I remember my mom telling me that she had issues with carpal tunnel only during her pregnancy. She had bad swelling and water retention and that it caused her carpal tunnel to be really bad. She had to wear a brace and even splints before I was born. She said the problems lasted until I was about 6 months old and then faded.

    • T.J.

      My wife has really bad carpal tunnel when she was pregnant with our son. She is a freelance writer so she spent a lot of time on the computer. She is right handed so that wrist has a brace on almost 24/7 and the left wrist had on one several days out of the week! We were both glad when the pregnancy was over and she got back to normal.

  • Ophelia

    Of all the issues affecting pregnant women, I did not think CTS was one of them. And 62% no less? Thinking back, I did experience wrist pain (and back pain, and abdominal pain…). I guess it is important not to just write the symptoms off as side effects of pregnancy and seek treatment. A new mother needs to be healthy and ready to tackle parenting!

  • Fallon

    Mother Nature piling on the hardships for us women! I was fortunate when I was pregnant with my three kids because I was not working at all at the time. I could focus on resting and treating all my pregnancy-related ailments. For women who have to work into their third trimester, these things are not always plausible.