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Good Hand Health Tips

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome during Pregnancy

I am pregnant. Could Carpal Tunnel Syndrome be why my hands hurt?carpal_tunnel_pregnancy

More than 60% of women experience symptoms of carpal tunnel during pregnancy.  If you feel pain, tingling, loss of dexterity and grip strength, then you might have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Why would my pregnancy lead to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Hormonal changes in your body can cause fluid retention in your wrists while pregnant. Women have less room in their wrists than men for the median nerve. Small wrists and edema can cause pressure on the nerve.

What can I do to relieve pain in the carpal tunnel during pregnancy?

Wearing wrist braces at night can very often relieve the pain of carpal tunnel during pregnancy. Symptoms typically resolve after delivery.  However, a noteworthy percentage of women continue to experience carpal tunnel symptoms up to three years after delivery and continue finding relief wearing wrist splints.

Carpal Tunnel Coaching’s Prevention Tips While Pregnant

  • If you experience symptoms, consult a doctor.
  • Most pregnant women have impairment of the median nerve during the third trimester. Consider putting off any expensive testing until after delivery.carpal tunnel during pregnancy wear wrist brace at night
  • If repetitive actions and wrist bending aggravate your symptoms, STOP! Make adjustments to your daily activities. The temporary symptoms during pregnancy can become longer lasting if ignored. Read the last sentence again!
  • Avoid overusing your hands and wrists while pregnant.
  • Ask for help or take more frequent breaks from manual activities.
  • Wear wrist braces at night to lower the pressure in your wrists.

Are Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and “Mommy’s thumb” the same?

No. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome affects the palm side of the hand and wrist. Mommy’s thumb affects the back of the thumb, wrist and forearm. Mommy’s thumb is an inflammation of the thumb tendons. The medical term is De Quervain’s tendonitis. Perhaps because of the hormonal changes of pregnancy and nursing or because no one teaches parents how to properly lift a baby, many new moms will develop this.

Hooking your thumbs underneath the baby’s armpits (see picture) strains your thumbs. Lifting the baby’s head with your hand in the same L shape can also be injurious. Lifting the baby from a low crib also causes the hand muscles to be overused. Gardening, racquet sports and other gripping activities can also aggravate the condition.

Carpal Tunnel Coaching’s Prevention Tips to Avoid De Quervain’s Tendonitis

  • Keeping your elbows close to your torso, gently squeeze the sides of the baby’s ribcage and lift him/her with your entire hand.
  • Support baby’s head by cradling baby’s head and bottom in the palms of your hands.
  • Always remember to bring baby close to your torso with your back straight and lift from the power of your legs and hips. With your palms up and your back straight, the stronger muscles of your upper arms and shoulders are engaged.
  • In general, do not put extra weight on a hyperextended thumb.

Testing for DeQuervain’s Syndrome Using the Finkelstein’s Test

Finkelstein test for Mommy's Thumb/ Blackberry Thumb/ De Quervain Syndrome

Gently bend a straight thumb towards the small finger. DeQuervain’s syndrome is likely when a sharp pain is felt at the base of thumb.

References:

National Center for Biotechnology Information

Andrus J. Voitk, John C. Mueller et al. (1983). Carpal tunnel syndrome in pregnancy.
Canadian Medical Association Journal, 128(3): 277-281.