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Pregnancy and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Pregnancy and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Symptoms of swelling, tingling, and numbness in the hands during the third trimester of pregnancy are common. Pain develops and is a problematic symptom. While not permanent, the symptoms are associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a group of symptoms that impact the arm and hand. Symptoms associated with the condition include tingling, weakness, and pain in the fingers and hand. Symptoms occur when there is pressure on the nerve that runs along the wrist. The swelling that is normal and often seen in pregnancy can crowd the carpal tunnel structures in the wrist and hand, leading to a variety of painful symptoms.

The Cause of Carpal Tunnel During Pregnancy

The bony canal formed by the wrist bones and ligaments that run across the wrist is known as the carpal tunnel. During pregnancy, women experience fluid retention and swollen extremities. If pressure is increased in the narrow tunnel, the median nerve that runs through the space becomes compressed.

As the median nerve becomes compressed, the narrow space running through becomes inflexible and tight. Pressure on the nerve gives way to symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, often characterized by tingling, pain, and numbness in the hand, fingers, and wrist.

What You Can Do To Relieve the Symptoms

The best home remedy is to determine which activities aggravate the problem and try to avoid doing them. Simple changes to protect your hands and wrists, such as adjusting the height of your desk chair or using an ergonomic keyboard can do wonders for relief. If your job requires extensive computer work, be sure to take routine breaks to allow your arms and hands rest. Your doctor can instruct you on proper stretches for your hands that may help relieve symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.

If you experience symptoms at night, avoid sleeping on your hands and modify your sleep position. Your doctor may prescribe a brace or splint to wear at night if symptoms persist. If the pain wakes you up at night, shake your hands until there is relief. Shaking your hands relieves numbness and eliminates pain in most cases. Prop your arm on a pillow when twinges of pain are felt.

When to See Your Doctor

If the troublesome symptoms become severe enough to disrupt the daily routine or affect nightly rest, it is important to seek medical care. Your doctor may recommend a splint or brace to be worn on the hand or wrist, which are both used in the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome.

If the symptoms worsen over time and become severe, such as throbbing pain, muscle weakness, and loss of use, the treating doctor may refer you to a specialist for further assessment and care.

In most cases of carpal tunnel syndrome during pregnancy, the symptoms resolve following delivery. But, if the condition does not improve gradually postpartum, your doctor may refer you to an orthopedist. Splinting and anti-inflammatory medication may be required.

Conservative medical treatment is ideal in caring for carpal tunnel syndrome, although in severe cases cortisone injections and simple surgical procedures may be required. The goal for treatment is to relieve pressure. The nerve that runs medially along the wrist and hand must be released so that the patient will receive the best possible outcome.

For an evaluation of your symptoms call Associated Internists of Macomb, P.C. today at 586 726-5566.

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