Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (Numbness In The Hands) During Pregnancy
Feeling all a-tingle these days? Chances are, it isn't romance, or even excitement about the baby — it's pregnancy carpal tunnel syndrome, which some studies have shown can affect more than half of moms-to-be (up to around 60 percent).
Expecting women, especially those who work at computers, may begin to notice an uncomfortable tingling, pain, burning and numbness in the wrists, hands and fingers. Though it's usually associated with work that requires repetitive motion such as typing or sewing, carpal tunnel strikes pregnant women for a different reason — though repetitive motion can definitely contribute to the problem.
When does carpal tunnel syndrome start during pregnancy?
Many pregnant women feel the pain and numbness of carpal tunnel syndrome later in pregnancy, around the third trimester, but it can also crop up as early as the first trimester. And typically, the symptoms are more acute at night. If this describes you, it's because the fluids that accumulate in the lower part of your body during the day are redistributed to your extremities when you lie down (think of it as a kind of reverse gravity). That means more pressure on your nerves and ligaments. If you've been at a computer all day long, it could make the tingly numbness more pronounced when the sun goes down.
What causes carpal tunnel syndrome?
Pregnancy swelling puts pressure on a key nerve in the wrists and causes the same aching and tingling symptoms most often associated with ergonomic strain and repetitive motion. You may also be moving a lot less, which means circulation to your hands and other extremities is sluggish. And if you're expecting and doing repetitive motions — like if you work at a desk job — you may be more likely to experience this pregnancy symptom.
What can I do about carpal tunnel syndrome when I'm pregnant?
The more you can do now to mitigate the effects of carpal tunnel syndrome, the more likely you will feel symptom-free after delivery. Here are some remedies:
Try a wrist brace. If your carpal tunnel is causing you a lot of pain, ask your practitioner to recommend a wrist brace (you may be able to find one at your local pharmacy). Then make sure you wear it, especially at night. One study found that 80 percent of pregnant women with carpal tunnel syndrome found relief by using one.
Stretch. If you work at a computer or do any other activity that requires repetitive motions, like playing the piano or filing, take frequent hand-stretching breaks to relieve pain and tingling.
Get into position. If you spend a lot of time at a computer typing, type gently and make sure your wrists are straight and your elbows are higher than your hands. You may also want to look into buying an ergonomic keyboard designed to protect your hands and fingers.
Sleep freely. Don’t constrict your limbs at night. Try not to sleep on your hands, and use a pillow to prop up your arms at night.
Get the blood flowing. Shake your hands and wrists out frequently. At night, hang your hand over the side of the bed and shake it.
Try alternative therapies. Acupuncture might help relieve hand pain. Ask your practitioner for a recommendation.
Ask about medication. Your doctor may be able to suggest a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication for carpal tunnel that's safe to take during pregnancy.
Can I prevent carpal tunnel syndrome during pregnancy?
If you’re worried about the risk of getting carpal tunnel while you're pregnant, try to minimize time spent doing intensive manual tasks such as typing, sewing or knitting. No Facebooking or Instagramming for hours on end, either!
When can I expect carpal tunnel syndrome to end?