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Carpel Tunnel Syndrome During Pregnancy
by Stacey L. Jones, DC
Q. I have had Carpal Tunnel Syndrome for a few years. Now that I am pregnant, my hands have gotten very weak and fall asleep all the time. It's very painful. What can I do to alleviate this pain?
A. It is not unusual for women who suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) to notice an increase in symptoms when they are pregnant or for women who have never had CTS to develop carpal tunnel-like symptoms.
It is important to make a differentiation between true CTS and pregnancy-related symptoms. CTS is most commonly caused by overuse of the wrist coupled with poor body mechanics. Symptoms associated with pregnancy are not necessarily connected to your job or other activities, although certain activities may aggravate the symptoms. Pregnancy-related symptoms are caused by the increase in fluid retention and ligament laxity. This allows for more swelling in the carpal tunnel, which is already cramped for space. The additional pressure on the vessels and nerves produce the symptoms of pain, numbness, tingling, weakness, etc . . .
Stretches and exercises for the wrist are very helpful in alleviating the discomfort, promoting proper blood flow to the area and decreasing the accumulation of fluid. Ice or heat compresses may offer some relief, as may support braces. The braces are often most beneficial when used at night while sleeping, since this is often when symptoms are increased. Therapeutic ultrasound is often used to help to decrease the swelling. Manipulation of the wrist is also very beneficial. This will ensure that all the bones in the wrist are in correct alignment. Very often with the increase in ligament laxity and the increase in fluid, the bones become out of alignment or 'subluxated'. This only compounds the problem by causing more crowding in the carpal tunnel.
Symptoms associated with pregnancy and even the increase in true CTS symptoms usually resolve themselves within 6 weeks post partum. Occasionally they will persist and require more extensive therapy, however there is rarely a need for surgical intervention. The best way to ensure that the symptoms do not persist after pregnancy is to receive treatment during the pregnancy. If the vessels and nerves are compressed for long periods of time without relief, permanent damage is more likely to occur. Most chiropractors are knowledgeable about CTS, but you may feel more comfortable with a chiropractor that specializes in caring for women during pregnancy.
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