By Erica Garcia
Backaches. Morning sickness. Food cravings. Many new and—ehem, uncomfortable—physical experiences come with pregnancy, and one of those experiences that turns out to be surprisingly common is carpal tunnel syndrome. The good news is, it’s preventable.
What is carpal tunnel?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that occurs when nerves in your hand and wrist become compressed or squeezed, causing inflammation and pain.
This condition is most common in people over 50, and is more common in women than in men, but pregnant women also experience carpal tunnel with surprising frequency.
What are carpal tunnel symptoms?
Prickly or tingly sensation in fingers
Numbness in wrists, hands, and fingers
Difficulty gripping objects
A throbbing feeling joints or knuckles
Sharp pains from wrist to palm
Some women may even have pain up into their forearms and shoulders
You might feel this pain during the workday while you’re typing on your computer, writing, driving, using tools, lifting equipment, cooking, or even just buttoning up your coat, and when you lie down at night, the pain might amplify.
So, why does this happen to pregnant women?
Thirty-one to 62 percent of pregnant women are affected by carpal tunnel syndrome. The natural swelling that happens during pregnancy is responsible. Fluid builds up in the carpal tunnel and puts pressure on nerves in your hands. Ouch.
How to prevent carpal tunnel at work
Check in with your doctor
Start by talking to your doctor. They can tell you if what you’re feeling is carpal tunnel and the best way to address it in your body.
If you need some relief before you get to the doctor, you can try these.
Wear a splint
Wrist splints prevent overextension, which is especially helpful if you do a lot of moving during the day or tend to toss and turn in your sleep. You can pick up a wrist splint at just about any drugstore.
Invest in some ergonomic desk gear
If you work at a computer, try investing in an elevated mouse pad (the kind with the squishy wrist rest) and gel wrist rest for in front of your keyboard.
Give your hands a rest
Women carry most of the household work in this country. Ask your partner or a friend or family member to do the dishes and clean the house. Give your hands a rest to alleviate the pain.
Use cold therapy
Cold relieves inflammation. Flexible ice packs that you can re-freeze can be extremely helpful as they’ll be able to wrap around your wrist and fit to the shape of your hand. Ice packs are also easily transferable from office kitchens to home refrigerators!
Many benefits can come from exercise while you’re pregnant. One of them is that it will wake your muscles up in just the right way. A regular yoga practice can keep your nerves alert, but not overexerted.