Pregnancy and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Gretchen Kaiser is the Director of Hand Therapy for Spooner Physical Therapy at Banner Estrella Medical Center.
Question: I am pregnant and am starting to feel my hands fall asleep. I am frequently dropping things around the house. Is this normal?
Answer: No cause for alarm. You are experiencing pregnancy Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. This can be annoying, but be assured it is usually not permanent. It is thought that Carpal Tunnel Syndrome occurs during pregnancy because of the extra fluid retention.
When there is extra fluid build-up, as in the case of pregnancy, the carpal tunnel, which is a canal in your wrist formed by the small wrist bones and a ligament, becomes a smaller area and pressure is put on the tendons and the nerve that pass through that tunnel.
When nerves get compressed, or pinched, it can create the numbness, tingling and weakness you are experiencing. If I had to guess, you are most likely experiencing problems in your thumb and index finger, your middle finger and part of your ring finger.
Only about 1 in 3 women will have symptoms worthy of treating while they are pregnant and it generally happens during the third trimester. Other problems you may experience include tingling, burning pain, achy fingers or wrist or forearm. You may feel it in both hands as well.
Talk with your physician regarding potential treatments. During pregnancy, medication might not be an option but you can ask for a prescription for a therapy visit to your local hand therapist. The therapist can customize a splint to your hand that you can wear at night and sometimes during the day to help control your symptoms.
This splint will help keep your wrists in a better position so the nerve doesn’t get more irritated. The therapist can also review proper positioning for your body while at work, while sleeping, and give you tips on how to perform some of your common daily activities with minimal discomfort.
The good news? These feelings usually disappear spontaneously after delivery. If they do not resolve, talk with your doctor. They may refer you to a hand surgeon in your area for a consultation. Hand surgeons specialize in these conditions and have a bag full of tricks to help you feel normal again!