Carpal tunnel syndrome is a very common disease that causes pain, numbness, and tingling in the palms and fingers. Symptoms grow gradually and intensify at night. Most women note that the pain is localized in the index and middle finger. But some women note that discomfort spreads to the entire hand. So, how to deal with pregnancy carpal tunnel?
What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome develops when the median nerve that connects the forearm and the wrist is constricted in the wrist area. During pregnancy, the amount of fluid in the body increases. As a result of water retention, the pressure on the carpal tunnel increases (the passage on the volar wrist). So, the median nerve is clamped by the flexor tendons, connective tissue and wrist bones. The syndrome is manifested by prolonged pain and numbness of the fingers of the hand. At night the condition may worsen.
The tunnel syndrome of the wrist occurs when the nerve that controls the finger movements and the palpation touch (the median nerve) contracts. Very often it occurs during pregnancy. Excess fluid accumulates in the tissues and causes swelling, which then compresses the nerve. As a result, women experience pregnancy carpal tunnel syndrome.
About half of all pregnant women experience the following symptoms:
- Numbness in the palm and fingers;
- Feeling of sharp stabs in this area;
- Weakness of fingers;
- Dull pain in hand and wrist;
- Dry skin and swelling of the affected fingers.
These sensations are often more pronounced at night and can even lead to an awakening from sleep. The cause of increased symptoms at night can be associated with the bent position of the wrist during sleep and / or the accumulation of fluid around the wrist and hand while it is in a horizontal position. Pregnancy carpal tunnel syndrome can be a temporary condition that completely disappears by itself. At the same time, the symptomatology can persist and progress.
As the syndrome progresses, patients may develop a burning sensation and / or spasms and weakness of the hand. The reduction in grip strength can lead to frequent falls of objects from the hand. Sometimes sharp shooting pains can be felt also in the forearm. Chronic carpal tunnel syndrome can also lead to atrophy of the muscle of the hand, especially the muscles of the thumb.
What Causes Pregnancy Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Pregnancy carpal tunnel syndrome occurs with an increase in the amount of fluid that causes tissue swelling around the nerves in the wrist. It leads to tingling, pain, numbness and impaired coordination of movements in the hands and fingers. Usually this syndrome appears near the end of pregnancy. Also, there is a possibility of its recurrence during in the next pregnancy. At the same time, the syndrome can persist, and sometimes even intensify in the first days after the birth of the child.
Pregnancy carpal tunnel syndrome can make it difficult for you to capture small items, as well as perform work that requires precise movements of the hand and fingers. The syndrome is more pronounced in the dominant hand and more often in the index and middle fingers. Especially severe pain happens in the morning, because at night your wrists were bent.
If you or your family members have this disease, or if you have problems with your back, neck or shoulders, for example, the slipped disk or the fracture of the clavicle in the past, the likelihood of developing pregnancy carpal tunnel syndrome increases.
Likewise, excessive weight gain during pregnancy increases the likelihood of this disease as well. This can happen if you expect more than one child, if you have already had excess weight before pregnancy or if during pregnancy your breast size has significantly increased.
Despite the inconvenience, pregnancy carpal tunnel syndrome is usually not a serious illness. Relief occurs within a week or two after the birth of the baby, when the level of hormones and fluids becomes normal again. Cases when the syndrome does not pass by itself are very rare. If you still experience discomfort and pain several months after you gave birth, you can be recommended surgical treatment.
How to Prevent the Problem?
A balanced diet will help to avoid excessive weight gain and minimize consumption of salt, sugar and fats. Drink at least eight glasses of water every day, at least five servings of fruits, salads and vegetables, and add a small amount of protein (meat, poultry, eggs, legumes) to each meal to improve digestion.
Foods rich in vitamin B contribute to strengthening the nervous system. If you decide to take a complex of B vitamins, consult a doctor beforehand. Too much vitamin B can be harmful.
If your breast size increases rapidly, take care of a suitable bra for pregnant women.
How to Deal with Pregnancy Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Buy hand splints to wear at night. Splints will stop you from bending and curling your hands during sleep. According to one study, wearing hand splints improved the symptoms in most women who had pregnancy carpal tunnel syndrome.
Tea made from chamomile can reduce inflammation. You can try to use the leaves of Savoy cabbage – it is believed that they relieve swelling due to osmotic pressure. Wipe them, but do not wash with water, wrap around the wrist like a compress, and leave until they become wet. Then replace them with fresh ones. Repeat the procedure until relief comes.
A simple technique of wrist twisting (grasp the wrist with the second hand and massage it with circular motions) will help to eliminate stagnant phenomena and stimulate the circulation of the liquid. Avoid movements that cause pain, and stretch your arms and hands carefully and gently. Try to keep your hands free to hang from the edge of the bed during sleep.
Some women relieve the pain by applying a pack of ice or any frozen products from the freezer to the wrist. However, this does not help everyone. It is effective to lightly rub fingers and wrists to improve circulation of fluid. Also, try to keep the wrists in the raised position.
A light massage can also help. Starting from the wrists, moving up to the axillary cavities, then to the shoulders, neck and upper back.
Pregnancy Carpal Tunnel: Treatment
If carpal tunnel syndrome causes you severe inconvenience, consult a doctor.
- A doctor may advise you to wear a splint to rest your wrist. This can be especially useful at night. You can also try physiotherapy where you will be taught to perform special exercises that will help ease your condition.
- In some cases, the doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory or diuretic medications to reduce stagnant fluid. But before making a prescription, the doctor should carefully think about the possibility of side effects from taking the medicine during pregnancy, as well as the possibility of complicating pregnancy carpal tunnel syndrome.
- There have been several positive reviews of patients who have been given vitamin B, but it may have helped only in cases where vitamin deficiency was observed in the body, so this is not a reason to prescribe vitamin intake to women who follow a balanced diet.
- If the symptoms of the disease don’t disappear, but, on the contrary, increase, the doctor may prescribe the use of steroids, for example prednisolone. The side effect of a small dose of the drug is minimal.
- To alleviate the symptoms of pregnancy carpal tunnel syndrome, you can try such methods as homeopathy, acupuncture, osteopathy and the dynamics of cranial fluid.
- Sometimes the tunnel syndrome of the wrist appears after the birth of the child. In this case, the operation can alleviate the symptoms of the disease by decreasing the pressure on the median nerve of the hand. The operation involves the separation of the ligaments of the wrist with the help of several incisions in the palm of your hand.
In many women, the symptoms of the pregnancy carpal tunnel syndrome disappear after the birth of the child, as the swelling and fluid level in the body decrease.