CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME
There are certain conditions that can make one more vulnerable to orthopedic issues. Pregnancy comes with a plethora of changes to the body, many of which can place stress on the body and increase the risk of certain orthopedic conditions. The growing uterus and baby tax the axial and pelvic structures due to a significant change in center of gravity. This change can often result in low back pain. There is also a shift in fluid retention with pregnancy that increases the risk of conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome. Other less common orthopedic issues in pregnancy include transient hip osteoporosis and pubic symphysis rupture.
Low back pain is one of the most common orthopedic complaints in pregnancy. Research has shown that over half the pregnant population has reported low back pain. This pain can impact a pregnant person’s mood and ability to perform daily activities. There are many causes of this back pain, including muscle fatigue and dysfunction of the sacroiliac joint. During pregnancy the body releases a hormone to allow the ligaments to become laxer and joints to become looser. The SI joint is a generally immobile joint so this increase in mobility during pregnancy can cause pain/discomfort. But how can we limit this back pain during pregnancy?!
o Manage weight gain to a healthy/appropriate amount -- Added weight can increase the stress on the pelvic/axial system
o Stay active! -- Gentle strengthening exercises for your core and back can help mitigate back/pelvic pain
o Physical Therapy -- A physical therapist can help with pregnancy safe stretching and strengthening exercises
o Heat/Cold therapy
o Sleep on your side
Carpal tunnel syndrome is characterized by swelling in the carpal tunnel that can lead to compression of the median nerve. This often results in pain, numbness, and tingling in the hand, particularly in the thumb, index, and middle fingers. The ring finger can also be affected. During pregnancy the risk of swelling/compression of the median nerve is increased due to fluid buildup in the body. Symptoms are generally worse at night or with keeping your hands in certain positions for too long. There are some simple noninvasive ways to help relieve the symptoms! And the good news is that symptoms often completely resolve after giving birth!
o Wear wrist splints at night or with increased activity -- Splints keep the wrist in a neutral position, taking pressure off the nerve
o Avoid repetitive wrist/hand movements and heavy lifting
o Occupational/Physical Therapy
o Cortisone injections -- These help to decrease swelling and inflammation, causing less nerve irritation
If symptoms are ever severe, be sure to contact your healthcare provider right away! While these symptoms are common, not everyone develops them. Wishing all expectant parents, a happy, healthy, and pain-free pregnancy!
Gharaibeh, A, et al. Prevalence of Low Back Pain in Pregnant Women and the Associated Risk Factors. Medwin Publishers- Journal of Orthopedics & Bone Disorders, 9 May 2018.