Wrist Pain In Pregnancy [7 Best Exercises to Get Relief]

Do you struggle with wrist pain in pregnancy?

You are in the right place!

In this article, you are going to learn a few strategies that may lessen the discomfort of pregnancy-related wrist pain.

You’ll also learn 7 great exercises you can do anywhere.

Keep reading to learn more.

wrist-pain-in-pregnancy

Disclaimer

***READ FIRST***

Although I am a doctor, I am not your doctor. This information is for informational purposes only and should not substitute the advice from your healthcare professional. All kinds of exercise and dietary changes are potentially dangerous, and those who do not seek counsel from the appropriate health care authority assume the liability of any injury which may occur. Please read my full Disclaimer for more information. Also, this post may contain affiliate links: meaning I may receive a commission if you use them.

Ok, moving on.

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Is it normal for your hands to hurt during pregnancy?

Pain is a way of your body communicating to you that something is not right.

It is not normal for your hands to hurt during pregnancy as it could be a sign of pathology.

Why do my wrists hurt during pregnancy?

Wrist pain during pregnancy can be caused by:

  1. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  2. De-Quervain’s Tendonitis, or
  3. Arthritis

Each one of these syndromes will present in different ways with different symptoms.

Of the three, carpal tunnel syndrome is the most common, which can affect up to 60-70% of pregnant women!

I will discuss each one of these in a little more detail below.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome (or CTS for short) is a condition that occurs when your median nerve gets compressed as it travels through the anatomic structure called the carpal tunnel.

The carpal tunnel is the actual passageway where the median nerve enters as it travels from the wrist and into your hand.

The issue is- the carpal tunnel isn’t a big space, and many other structures run through it.

Aside from the median nerve, there are several tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels that also go through the tunnel.

carpal-tunnel-syndrome-in-pregnancy

During pregnancy, swelling of your hands and wrists can place pressure on the tunnel.

As a result, the tunnel is narrowed and compresses the nerve.

This is why you develop pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the wrist, thumb, index finger, and middle finger.

Carpal tunnel symptoms typically gets worse with activity and better with rest.

De Quervain’s Tendonitis

De-Quervain’s tendonitis is similar to CTS but it is caused by inflammation of the tendons located in your wrist.

It is thought to arise from overuse, but we aren’t entirely sure.

Unlike CTS, this condition presents as pain on the thumb side of your wrist, rather than numbness and weakness.

Arthritis

Last but not least, wrist pain can be due to arthritis, which is joint inflammation.

This can be osteoarthritis (which is degenerative), or rheumatoid arthritis (which is autoimmune).

Typically, you will have pain in other joints as well.

How do I get rid of wrist pain during pregnancy?

You will likely not be able to get rid of your wrist pain completely. There are several things you can do to possibly lessen your pain, but if your symptoms are moderate/severe, you must get evaluated by a healthcare professional.

Here are some conservative things you can try.

1. Modify your activities

The most obvious thing is to avoid/minimize any activity that increases or worsens your wrist pain.

This can be anything such as the way you carry groceries, the way you sleep, the way you type, etc.

Pain is never normal and you shouldn’t try to work through it.

2. Massage

Massage is a great strategy to try and manage your wrist pain conservatively.

Not only does massage help with pain but studies have shown it to improve your grip strength.

This is a cheap and accessible way to try and get relief at home.

Below I’ll show you some techniques.

3. Wrist brace

Wrist braces are meant to keep your wrist in a neutral position which will help to keep the carpal tunnel “patent.”

This is especially important when doing a repetitive motion like typing and writing for extended periods of time.

This way, it prevents any sort of long-term compression of the nerves, ligaments, and tendons.

wrist-brace-in-pregnancy

4. Ice

Ice is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to decrease local inflammation.

Applying ice packs to your wrists after a long day of work can potentially alleviate wrist pain.

Just be sure to wrap up the ice packs in a paper towel or cloth to avoid the excessive cold.

5. Exercises

There is a little bit of research that “nerve gliding exercises” may provide good pain relief in people with CTS.

This is a type of gentle exercise that can help irritated nerves stretch and move around.

Let’s go over some of them now.

7 Exercises To Help Wrist Pain In Pregnancy

Now we will discuss 7 exercises you can do in pregnancy to help alleviate your wrist pain.

It is important that you first speak with a healthcare provider before doing any type of exercise.

You should always start slow and take your time. If any of these movements cause you pain – then STOP!

1. Wrist rolls

The wrist roll is a simple exercise that helps the wrist go through its full range of motion.

Ideally you want to create circles with your wrists in the clockwise and counter-clockwise fashion.

Here is what it looks like:

wrist-rolls

2. Thumb touches

Thumb touches are another easy exercise you could perform to activate all the muscles of the thumb and allow the tendons to move freely in the tunnel.

The point of this exercise is for each one of your fingers to individually make contact with the thumb.

Here is what it looks like:

thumb-touches

3. Ball squeeze

The ball squeeze is a great exercise to activate all of the hand muscles simultaneously.

It also improves your grip strength and helps to reduce stress!

This works great with a tennis ball, a lacrosse ball, or a malleable stress ball.

Squeeze the ball for three seconds- release- and repeat.

Here is what it looks like:

ball-squeeze

4. Forearm wrist roller

The forearm wrist roller is probably the best exercise to mobilize your wrist and strengthen your forearms.

However, it does require the use of a wrist roller, which you can get cheaply on Amazon here.

You will also need some type of weight to attach to it.

Here is what the exercise looks like:

forearm-wrist-roller

5. Wrist extension stretch

The wrist extension stretch helps to stretch the forearm muscles and bring your wrist to a full extension range of motion.

You could do this stretch against a wall by putting your palms against the wall with your fingers pointing towards the ceiling.

Here is what the exercise looks like:

wrist-flexion

6. Wrist flexion stretch

The wrist flexion stretch is the opposite of the extension stretch.

Here is what the exercise looks like:

Do not hold the stretch, but rather oscillate in and out of it.

wrist-flexion

7. Flexion-Extension-Fan

For the flexion-extension-fan, we are going to put some of the exercises together.

You are going to flex your wrist, then extend your wrist and then fan out your fingers.

Here is what the exercise looks like:

flexion-extension-fan

It is important for you to know that exercise alone likely won’t eliminate your joint pain. CTS often needs other treatment modalities such as wrist splinting, rest, and other aggressive options such as steroid injections and surgery.

When do you get carpal tunnel during pregnancy?

Carpal tunnel syndrome typically occurs in the early 3rd trimester of pregnancy, as this is when you experience the most amount of fluid retention.

Fluid retention can cause edema (swelling) and compression of the carpal tunnel.

Does pregnancy carpal tunnel go away?

Carpal tunnel usually regresses in the postpartum period as the fluid retention subsides.

With that said, it can take about 4-6 weeks so it is important you give your body the time it needs.

Does massage help carpal tunnel?

Yes, studies have found that massage can help carpal tunnel syndrome.

You can do this with your hands:

wrist-massage-with-hand

Or with a lacrosse ball (which you can get easily on Amazon here).

wrist-massage

Other Related Questions

Is numbness in the hands a sign of preeclampsia?

Numbness in the hands is not typically a sign of preeclampsia, however, preeclampsia can cause increased swelling, worsening carpal tunnel syndrome.

The signs and symptoms of preeclampsia are:

  • elevated blood pressures >140mmHg systolic or >90mmHg diastolic
  • protein in your urine
  • abdominal pain in the epigastric or right upper quadrant region
  • persistent headache

If you experience any of these symptoms, you should contact your doctor right away as preeclampsia is a serious pregnancy-related medical condition that requires immediate attention.

How can I sleep with carpal tunnel while pregnant?

During pregnancy, you can sleep with a wrist splint to alleviate your pain from carpal tunnel syndrome.

This one is a best seller on Amazon.

Make sure the brace is not too tight and you are still able to feel sensation throughout your fingers.

How can I carry my baby without my wrist hurting

If you must pick up and carry a baby during pregnancy, you should do so with a wrist brace on.

The brace helps to stabilize your wrist and minimize any median nerve compression.

How long does De Quervain syndrome last?

De Quervain tenosynovitis can last several months depending on:

  • the type of treatment you get
  • when you get treatment, and
  • how bad your inflammation is.

With that said, on average people typically respond to treatment in 4-6 weeks.

What happens if you don’t treat De Quervain’s tenosynovitis?

If De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is not treated the inflammation can progress and worsen, possibly limiting the function of your thumb and/or hand.

Serious cases may need surgery.

Final words on Wrist pain in pregnancy

If you believe you have carpal tunnel syndrome or De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, you should speak with your OBGYN about management.

Conservative treatment may help, but it is important to combine different modalities to get better relief.

Now I want to hear from you!

Did you suffer from wrist pain during pregnancy?

What type of treatment did you get and did it help?

Comment below and let me know!


Get Started With A Free Postpartum Workout Plan To Rebuild Your Pelvic Floor, Heal Your Mommy Tummy, & Tone Your Arms & Legs!

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brittany-robles

Brittany N Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

Brittany N Robles is a full-time OBGYN, a NASM certified personal trainer, and health & fitness expert. She holds a Masters of Public Health degree in maternal health with a special interest in exercise and nutrition. She is also the co-author of The White Coat Trainer. Learn more about her here.

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References:

  1. Zyluk A. Carpal tunnel syndrome in pregnancy: a review. Pol Orthop Traumatol. 2013 Oct 7;78:223-7. PMID: 24104526.
  2. Madenci E, Altindag O, Koca I, Yilmaz M, Gur A. Reliability and efficacy of the new massage technique on the treatment in the patients with carpal tunnel syndrome. Rheumatol Int. 2012;32(10):3171-3179. doi:10.1007/s00296-011-2149-7
  3. Ballestero-Pérez R, Plaza-Manzano G, Urraca-Gesto A, Romo-Romo F, Atín-Arratibel MLÁ, Pecos-Martín D, Gallego-Izquierdo T, Romero-Franco N. Effectiveness of Nerve Gliding Exercises on Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: A Systematic Review. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2017 Jan;40(1):50-59. doi: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2016.10.004. Epub 2016 Nov 11. PMID: 27842937.

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