You’re not alone if you’re pregnant and experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). This condition is quite common during pregnancy, affecting up to one in three women. Its underlying cause is the median nerve compression in the wrist’s carpal tunnel.
The added weight, pressure on the wrist and hand, and hormone increase causing fluid retention, all contribute to CTS. While carpal tunnel syndrome can be uncomfortable, it is generally not harmful to you or your baby. You can seek several treatments to relieve symptoms and prevent the condition from worsening is critical.
Here are safe treatment options for pregnant women with carpal tunnel syndrome:
- Rest: Taking breaks throughout the day and avoiding activities that stress the hands and wrists can help reduce symptoms. Night splints or splints that keep the wrist in a neutral position may also be recommended to help relieve symptoms.
- Elevation: Keeping your wrists above your heart level can help reduce swelling and inflammation caused by CTS. You can do this by resting your arms on a pillow to help reduce pain, accompanied by some rest.
- Reduced Activities: Avoid activities that strain the wrist. This includes typing on a keyboard. If you work at a computer, take breaks often and stretch your wrists. Also, invest in an ergonomic keyboard to reduce the strain on your wrists.
- Wrist Brace and Hand Splints: A wrist brace or hand splint keeps your wrist in a neutral position, especially at night. It takes the pressure off the median nerve and alleviates inflammation in the affected area. Ergonomic modifications, such as using a wrist rest or adjusting your keyboard’s height, can help reduce pressure on the median nerve.
- Cold Therapy: This reduces inflammation and swelling in the affected area by relieving pressure on the median nerve and reducing pain. It can be done using ice packs, cold compresses, cold baths, or showers. You should also aim to do cold therapy for 10-15 minutes at a time, several times a day.
- Exercise: Some recommended exercises for pregnant women with CTS include stretching, aerobic, and weight-bearing exercises. Practicing yoga can also help to stretch and strengthen the muscles and tissues in the hand and wrist, which can help to relieve pain and improve function.
- Physical Therapy: This is often one of the first treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome. It helps improve the range of motion in your wrists and hands and strengthens the muscles around the area.
Myofascial release therapy may reduce CTS-related pain and increase hand function. This is a type of massage to relieve tightness and shortness in ligaments and muscles.
- Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs: NSAIDs help to reduce inflammation and pain by blocking the production of certain body chemicals responsible for pain and inflammation.
Using acetaminophen (Tylenol) during pregnancy is usually considered safe, but always check with your doctor for the correct dosage you need to take.
In addition, unless your doctor has explicitly approved its use, Ibuprofen (Advil) should be avoided during pregnancy. Ibuprofen has been associated with amniotic fluid deficiency and various other problems.
- Steroid Injections: Corticosteroids suppress immune system activation and reduce inflammation. Carpal tunnel injections are common. The medicine is injected into the median nerve’s carpal tunnel in the wrist, relieving median nerve pressure and symptoms.
- Surgery: Carpal tunnel surgery is generally considered safe for pregnant women. If you’re considering a procedure, you should discuss any potential risks or problems with your doctor. You need to seek a reputable orthopedic hand specialist to ensure you, and your baby’s safety is prioritized above all else.
Although there is no cure for CTS, there are treatments that can help lessen the symptoms. If you are pregnant and experiencing CTS symptoms, consult your doctor immediately to find a treatment option that works for you.
If you suffer from severe CTS and need carpal tunnel surgery, call us at North Florida Hand and Wrist center. Our expertly-trained hand and wrist surgeons are committed to providing you with the best care possible. We also provide emergency services, so visit us or call (904) 215-2422 today!