Carpal Tunnel After Pregnancy
As if pregnancy isn’t hard enough, struggling with carpal tunnel and the numbness, pain, and tingling associated with it makes pregnancy even more difficult.
I personally experienced carpal tunnel during my pregnancies to the point that I could hardly drive for more than 10 minutes because my hands would go completely numb. Thankfully, there are some things you can try to alleviate the symptoms both during pregnancy and after as well.
Carpal tunnel after pregnancy happens because the median nerve is often still compressed for a while, but hopefully, you’ll soon find relief. Just a note, I am not a medical professional and you should always consult with your healthcare provider.
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What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is what happens when the median nerve becomes compressed. The median nerve passes through a narrow passageway in your wrist. In pregnancy, this often happens due to increased swelling because of the increased fluid levels in your body.
Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The most common symptom of CTS is numbness or tingling in the fingers. It can be caused by pressure on the nerves that are responsible for feeling sensation in your hands and arms. These sensations can range from a vague, burning feeling to a sharp pinching sensation. Sometimes these feelings may move into your thumb and first two fingers.
In many cases, the feeling can be compared to your hands falling asleep. When you “wake up” your hand or move it around, the feeling goes away.
In addition to numbness, you may feel tingling or pins and needles in your fingers. This too can be caused by pressure on the median nerve that runs through the carpal tunnel. CTS may also cause a burning sensation in the palm of your hand.
Trouble holding objects
This symptom is usually the first sign of CTS. Because of the compression on your nerves, you may have trouble holding objects or performing small movements with your hand and fingers. You will also likely find that tasks requiring fine motor control are harder to perform.
This can be incredibly concerning when it comes to holding your baby. You should never try to hold your baby when you’re experiencing any kind of numbness that could make you drop your baby.
Another common symptom of carpal tunnel is throbbing pain in the hand. There may also be a stabbing type of pain in your palm and fingers when you move them. This can make it very uncomfortable for you to work on a computer or do any sort of fine motor control tasks.
Pain in your wrist is also a common symptom of CTS. Your pain may be caused by several different factors, such as the pressure on your nerve running through the carpal tunnel or spasms and tightness in the tendons and ligaments that attach to your wrist’s small bones.
If your fingers swell at night, then you may also have carpal tunnel syndrome. This swelling is caused by a combination of the pressure on the median nerve and fluid leaking from damaged tissues surrounding your wrist.
Tips for Breastfeeding with Carpal Tunnel
Use a Breastfeeding Support Pillow
Use a breastfeeding support pillow or sling to support your baby in a good position for breastfeeding. Make sure that your baby is held close to you, and not out away from the body. Make it comfortable for you to breastfeed by choosing a place where you can sit comfortably with back support if possible.
Try a Variety of Breastfeeding Positions
Try a variety of breastfeeding positions including lying down when you’re struggling with CTS. If your baby is positioned too high on the breast, gravity can put pressure on the median nerve. On the other hand, if your baby is too low then it strains the joints and ligaments of your arms and shoulders. The further away from you that your baby’s head is sited, the greater this strain will be.
Avoid the Cross-Cradle Hold While Breastfeeding
Avoid cross-cradle hold when you’re experiencing symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. When you pull your arm back into that position, your wrist is more likely to be at an angle that will cause numbness.
Wear a Wrist Brace
Using a wrist brace while holding or feeding your baby can help with the numbness tingling and pain associated with CTS. The wrist brace can support the weight of your hands and prevent an awkward position that could worsen carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms. It is very important to wear your brace(s) all night while sleeping for optimal results.
You should be careful about taking it off during the day as it will interfere with your body’s ability to heal naturally. And remember that the brace should only be worn when you’re experiencing symptoms because it can take some time for your nerve to repair itself after wearing a wrist brace or splint.
Why are my fingers still numb after pregnancy?
Some women do experience numbness in their hands after pregnancy because of the changes in their circulation and hormone levels. The carpal tunnel (where the median nerve is located) is often compressed during pregnancy, which may lead to numbness if you do not stretch it properly. This condition can also be caused by a temporary swelling of your fingers as they adjust to normal blood circulation after delivery.
How long does carpal tunnel last after childbirth?
Unfortunately, carpal tunnel syndrome after childbirth is a condition that can last for quite some time. In fact, it can take up to six months or more to go away completely because this disorder happens gradually. However, you should be able to return to your normal lifestyle and daily activities within 3–4 weeks of delivery if you do proper stretching exercises.
Treatments for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Use a wrist splint day and night
Wearing a wrist splint will assist in supporting your hand through the pain of carpal tunnel syndrome. These splints come in varying sizes and shapes to accommodate the severity of your condition.
You should try to get a splint that is made out of silicone or airsoft materials, as these are easier on your skin while offering support for your wrist. Moreover, you should never wear a splint if it’s causing you too much pain as this will only worsen your symptoms.
You can use a splint for about 3–5 weeks at a time, although you’ll need to talk with your doctor for a specific recommendation based on the severity of your condition.
Increase water intake
Increase water intake to reduce inflammation and swelling. You should increase your water intake to reduce swelling and inflammation and relieve pain. You should try to drink 10–12 glasses of water every day. Make sure you have a large water bottle so you always have water with you.
Avoid having your hand at a 90-degree angle
Having your wrist at a 90-degree angle will cut off the supply of blood to your median nerve. Don’t be afraid to experiment, especially when it comes to finding the best position and support for your hands. Just remember to take regular breaks from holding your baby in order to give your wrist a rest.
Rest your wrist and hand properly
Rest your wrist properly when breastfeeding or carrying your baby. Make sure that you are not having the affected hand pushed up and bent at a weird angle.
Use a cold compress
You can use a cold compress on your wrist to ease the pain. Using a cold compress will reduce swelling and muscle spasms that are causing you pain.
Ibuprofen will reduce pain in your wrist. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider first before taking any medication, as these may be unsafe if you are breastfeeding or have existing medical conditions. You should never take ibuprofen for more than a week.
Try a paraffin wax bath for your hands and wrists
Paraffin wax baths have been used to treat a variety of conditions, and carpal tunnel syndrome is one of them. A paraffin bath will gently warm the affected area and help ease the pain that you’re feeling as a result of carpal tunnel syndrome. It can also be used to reduce inflammation and swelling.
Vitamin B6 can be used to help with carpal tunnel syndrome and wrist pain during breastfeeding. However, it is always recommended that you talk with your physician before taking any supplements to make sure that they will not interfere with any medication(s) or condition(s) you may have.
Medical Hand Massage
Medical hand massage is an excellent way to relieve pressure on your median nerve. The massages also help reduce inflammation of the tendons in your wrist that are contributing to your pain.
Chiropractic care is often used to treat carpal tunnel syndrome in order to help reduce pain. They will make sure that your hand and wrist are properly aligned and the pressure on your median nerve will be reduced. They may also recommend specific exercises for you to perform to help the situation.
While it is true that acupuncture may help with carpal tunnel syndrome, you should consider the risks before trying it. Always talk with your healthcare provider before trying a treatment.
Diuretics may reduce pain associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. If you’re not familiar with diuretics, they help rid the body of excess water, which in turn reduces swelling. It’s possible that they could actually reduce pressure on the median nerve as well.
Cortisone injections are often used to help relieve pain associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. The theory behind this treatment is that cortisone reduces inflammation in the area. This will be temporary and the pain may return when the effects wear off.
This is not to say that cortisone injections are completely useless because they do have a place in helping people deal with carpal tunnel syndrome. For instance, if you’re scheduled for surgery and need something done beforehand, then this type of treatment may be ideal for you.
If you are unable to find relief with the other options listed above or if your case is severe, surgery may be an option. The utility of this type of treatment is often questioned, but some people have found great success after undergoing surgery.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can be a devastating condition for pregnant women and can continue after pregnancy. However, the good news is with some basic home treatments, it can rapidly improve and soon you’ll have your hand back to normal! In the meantime, if you are experiencing any pain while breastfeeding or pumping at work please contact your doctor.
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