Women who are pregnant know that there are many uncomfortable side effects of participating in the growth and development of a new human being. However, one possible side effect that often is overlooked is carpal tunnel syndrome. For most women, the condition resolves itself after the birth of the baby, but for some it can turn into an ongoing issue. Let’s talk about what might make carpal tunnel syndrome linger after the birth of your baby and also what you can do to alleviate discomfort safely while pregnant.
What can I do to help my carpal tunnel symptoms while I’m pregnant?
Wearing a wrist splint at night can be a good place to start. It holds the wrist in a neutral position and reduces the pressure on the nerve. More than three-fourths of pregnant women who try a splint find relief from their carpal tunnel symptoms. Other non-invasive treatments that show promise are self-massage using the Madenci technique, a three-minute self-massage of the hand, wrist, and forearm, as well as mechanical traction, which involves twelve treatments over a six-week period where gravity traction is applied to the wrist while it is in various positions. Other remedies to try at home include applying cold or ice packs to reduce swelling and, alternately, applying heat to improve the elasticity of ligaments and tendons.
Steroid injections can offer a temporary reduction in symptoms, but they are rarely used during pregnancy even though serious side effects have not been reported. Surgery also is not a typical treatment during pregnancy. Given that most cases of carpal tunnel syndrome during pregnancy resolve themselves after the delivery of the baby, finding relief using the least invasive measures seems prudent.
What makes carpal tunnel syndrome stick around after the baby’s birth?
Studies have shown that a history of diabetes and maternal weight gain can contribute to an increased possibility of pregnancy-related carpal tunnel syndrome. Around one-fourth of pregnant women will experience carpal tunnel symptoms, and researchers attribute the development of pain, numbness, and tingling in the hands and fingers to hormones, extra fluids in the body, and weight gain that are often a normal part of pregnancy. While the condition typically goes away after about six weeks, for those who still had carpal tunnel symptoms three months after the birth, their condition often worsened over time. In this study, those whose carpal tunnel symptoms didn’t go away were primarily not Caucasian and had a high body mass index (BMI), along with a history of smoking and preeclampsia.
Pregnancy can be a time when your body changes dramatically, and sometimes carpal tunnel symptoms are part of those changes. Rest assured, most cases of carpal tunnel syndrome go away after the birth, but in the meantime, you can check out the noninvasive suggestions that have worked for other women. As always, working closely with your doctor on any treatment is a good idea. Doctorpedia provides information based on research to help you ask the right questions when you talk to your doctor. There are options to help you if you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome during pregnancy!
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. (2019). Gestational carpal tunnel syndrome found to be persistent in women post pregnancy. P & T Community. Retrieved from https://www.ptcommunity.com/wire/gestational-carpal-tunnel-syndrome-found-be-persistent-women-post-pregnancy
- Laymon, M., Petrofsky, J., McKivigan, J., Lee, H., & Yim, J. (2015). Effect of heat, cold, and pressure on the transverse carpal ligament and median nerve: A pilot study. Medical Science Monitor 21, 446-51. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4335578/
- Madenci, E., Altindag, O., Koca, I., Yilmaz, M., & Gur, A. (2011). Reliability and efficacy of the new massage technique on the treatment in the patients with carpal tunnel syndrome. Rheumatology International, 32(10), 3171-3179. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3456919/
- Meems, M., Den Oudsten, B., Meems, B., & Pop, V., (2014). Effectiveness of mechanical traction as a non-surgical treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome compared to care as usual: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. Trials 15, 180. Retrieved from https://trialsjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1745-6215-15-180
- Meems, M., Truijens, S., Spek, V., Visser, L., & Pop, V. (2015). Prevalence, course, and determinants of carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms during pregnancy: a prospective study. Maternal Medicine 122(8), 1112-8. Retrieved from https://obgyn.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1471-0528.13360