Hand & Wrist Pain During Pregnancy

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Numbness and pain in hands during pregnancy

Oct 2006

I am in my 17th week of my first pregnancy and have suffered through constipation, round ligament pain and now congestion/allergies and headaches. BUT, the one things that drives me more crazy than any other thing is the numbness, tingling and pain that I feel in my hands/fingers/wrists througout the day (mostly in the morning). Has anyone else experienced this? I know it has something to do with carpal tunnel syndrome, but I haven't really been swollen (my rings still fit). It's driving me crazy! It wakes me up in the middle of my sleep and I have to get up and start shaking them ''loose''. Can anyone give me advice on how they handled their hand numbness/pain? Thank you so much!! Jessica

It could be carpal tunnel syndrome. This condition, due to pressure on the median nerve in the wrist, is a common occurrence in pregnancy, and usually resolves with the end of the pregnancy. Occasionally, it becomes severe enough to warrant surgery (relatively simple), but most of the time, completion of the pregnancy is what is necessary. There are, however, tests that are valuable in determining the severity and the risk of nerve damage. I would ask for a consultation with a neurologist or neurosurgeon Robert

Numbness and pain in hands during pregnancy is completely normal. The cure: delivery. Relax and enjoy the pregnancy. a midwife

Hi, I too suffer from numbness and pain in my hands. I've had it for over twenty years, off and on, sometimes when I was pregnant and sometimes not. I have seen doctors and massage people and have come up w/ my own strategies. It is now very much under control. Here are some suggestions. I have found diet to play a somewhat importnt role. Salt is a big culprit, especially foods like soy sauce, popcorn from the movie theater, etc. Drink lots of water and pay attention to what you eat. Also, at night use Trameel, available at Elephant Pharmacy. It's homeopathic and worth the price. Use a generous dollop before you go to bed, like hand lotion, and massage it into your hands. Also, wearing wrist braces at night will keep your wrists straight, especially if you sleep like I do, with your hands under your head. If you are a knitter or quilter or such, do not do this type of intense work for more than 20 minutes at a time. I have a career requiring me to use my hands all day long. These strategies have truly helped. Good luck. Numb hands too.

I had the exact same problem during my recent pregnancy, although mine was accompanied by mild swelling. It seems to be an unfortunate side effect of the hormonal changes you're undergoing (pregnancy-related arthritis). With my first pregnancy the symptoms went away as soon as I delivered, but this time they lingered for several weeks afterwards. Acupuncture and yoga definitely helped (I highly recommend Saraswathi Devi's prenatal yoga class at Yogalayam on Alcatraz/MLK in Berkeley - she can teach you some helpful finger exercises) -- but the most important things are to rest, to avoid overusing/aggravating your joints and to be careful of maintaining a straight wrist position especially when you sleep. - fellow joint sufferer

I had this too and it drove me nuts. I remember waking up in the night with my hands frozen into claws. And it hurt a lot. I asked both my doctor and my prenatal yoga instructor about it, and neither of them had any good suggestions about what to do, so I just gritted my teeth and lived through it. It did go away awhile after my daughter was born. So I guess this post is more by way of validation than advice: yes it's awful, and no I didn't find any good ways to deal with it other than patience. Hang in there. Rebecca

I completely understand what you are feeling! I had terrible numbness in my hands and arms throughout my first pregnancy. I woke up 3 times per night and had to shake my arms so that I could sleep! I did not know any other pregnant women who experienced this and could not find much about it on the internet. I tried to drink a ton of water, but nothing really made a huge difference. The only great news I have for you is that I did not experience this AT ALL during my second pregnancy. When I found out I was pregnant the second time, I was dreading all of the pain and lack of sleep at the end of the pregnancy...but it never happened! Good Luck! anon

Yep, it's carpal tunnel. I had the EXACT same problem when pregnant with #2 (but not #1). At first it would only happen at night, I would wake up with both of my hands completely asleep. Eventually it started to really hurt, though, and not just at night. So I invested in some wrist braces, the kind where your fingers are free but you can't move your wrist around, and that really helped. It was a little weird sleeping with these things on my wrists but it stopped the pain and the numbness and the tingling. I bought them at Elephant Pharmacy. The good news is that like most pregnancy-induced ailments, this one will go away after your baby is born. It took about a month but I haven't had to wear those braces ever since. Good luck! Jill

I had the same problem before and during my first pregnancy. I would wake up with pins and needles in my hand, and then would experience weakness and tingling thorought the day. It turned out that I was sleeping on my hand with my wrist bent and I gave myself Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. I was in the UK at the time, and the doctor sent me to the drugstore for a wrist brace to sleep in. Relief was almost immediate. I do still have bouts of numbness etc., but a few nights with my trusty old brace, and it's gone. CM

I know exactly what you are going through! Unfortunately I don't have any advice as to how to make it better. I suffered with the same thing with my last pregnancy and am 20 weeks pregnant again and it is just coming back. I believe it has to do with swelling around the carpal tunnel area. I know that massage can really help to decrease fluid retention. I would say to try massage or accupuncture/accupressure. I hope something makes it bearable for you. fellow sufferer

You may want to visit a rheumatologist. I developed a form of rheumatism shortly after pregnancy, and have heard anecdotally that others began symptoms of various autoimmune disorders along with pregnancy. anon

I am a plastic surgeon in Berkeley and have done a hand surgery fellowship. It does sound like you have carpal tunnel syndrome. This is very common during pregnancy and may also be caused by repetitive use of the hands such as being on the computer keyboard for uninterrupted hours every day. The nighttime symptoms you describe are pretty classic and quite debilitating waking you from sleep all the time.

The easiest thing to do is to wear wrist splints at night. They hold the wrists in a good resting position and can also help relieve the daytime tingling. I recommend that you have thermoplastic custom splints made by a hand therapist. The ones you can buy at the drug store often do not fit properly and can cause more swelling and pressure. To get to a therapist you will need a perscription from a physician. Anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen can also be helpful or a very small dose of steroids injected directly into the inflamed area can alleviate symptoms. Obviously both of these options should be cleared by your OB-GYN. Good luck. Elizabeth

I also had that, starting around 20 weeks, and unfortunately, the numbness got worse, and turned into very painful shooting pains up my arms to the middle of my back between my shoulder blades, as the pregnancy progressed. I was told that with the extra blood volume in my body from the pregnancy, that extra volume exerts pressure on the nerves in the ''carpal tunnel'' and causes inflamation and hence the shooting pains on the nerves that go throug the tunnel and extend up the arm to the spinal column. The carpal tunnel syndrome restraint cuffs helped me very much. I used them all day and night. I only took them off to do the dishes, shower, etc. They need to be really good ones-- -the $20 ones that I bought at the drug store did not work very welll, and luckily my sister had a set that was issued to her by a medical professional (she's a legal secretary--she also had carpal tunnel problems while pregnant but not nearly as bad as I did). So... ask your doctor for a ''prescription'' (she had Kaiser) (and don't forget to wash them periodically; they will need to air dry). My doctors (I saw a few within the same practice) did not seem to have any solutions except to take vitamin D because that helps with inflamation. Without a pregnancy, the solution would be hydrocortisone shots and at least ibuprofen but you can't have those treatments while pregnant. The other thing that helped me very much is to sleep with my body propped up as much as possible for sleeping in a sort of sitting up way. Supposedly acupuncture can help. I did one treatment, and it did help but it was expensive and I didn't have the time and money to invest. By the end of my pregnancy, I really tried to do as little as possible. I couldn't even do the dishes. The good news is that it went away within a day or 2 after giving birth!! What a relief!! Good luck, I really feel for you. Susan

Something like this happened to me too, though not as badly and not until my third trimester. For a while I could not feel two fingers on my left hand at all. The bad news is that it still hasn't gone away 100%, and I am 26 months postpartum!

I never did get a diagnosis that I felt was satisfactory. All the OBGYN nurse-practitioners (Kaiser Oakland) that I saw pre- and postpartum said it was caused by edema (swelling/fluid retention), pressing on nerves. That may be, and the problem did get better after giving birth, but why do I *still* feel tingling in some fingers?

One thing I can suggest: if you are still feeling the numbness and pain 1 or 2 months after the baby is born, get your thyroid levels checked. It turned out that I developed hypothyroidism postpartum, and that may be/have been a factor. Good luck! tingly in the fingers