Hi, I'm Dr. Molly with Your Goals Physical Therapy. Let's talk about carpal tunnel. Carpal tunnel is so common, especially for moms. And if you've just had a kid it’s also common to get carpal tunnel while you're pregnant, but it’s common just from holding your child that you get carpal tunnel. In my case my daughter, after she was born, just loved to be carried. She didn't really like to be put down for any length of time. And so you just spend a whole lot of time caring and of course, you're kind of curled in this position. You're trying to make sure that they're comfortable and you're doing a whole lot of this right. All day. And after a while, I noticed that, you know, my wrist would be a little bit sore and achy. My elbow was getting sore and because you're not sleeping a whole lot, there's not a lot of thought. You just know that you need to take care of your baby. And then that's what you're doing. But when I started to try to reach for things and I was uncoordinated, I would drop things because I didn't really have as good a grip as I thought I did. And then the numbness came and then after the numbness came, the realization that I am giving myself a carpal tunnel on my left side.
And so I made some adjustments on how I was holding my daughter. I got a baby carrier so that I could hold her the way that I wanted to, without having to put stress on my wrist. Then I started doing all the exercises that I know that you're supposed to do to help. I'm happy to say that my wrist no longer bothers me. I have all the functions of my hand. Everything's wonderful.
But carpal tunnel is one of those things that is sometimes hard to fully diagnose correctly and it also can feel like it takes forever for it to heal because it's your hand. Because we use our hands all day, especially anybody who types. I have worked with people who are machinists and they work with tools doing the same motion all day.
If you're a mom and you have to hold your kid. Constantly holding your wrist in a flex position for prolonged time, allows carpal tunnel to sneak in.
The other tricky thing is what can be diagnosed, carpal tunnel?
You can have all the symptoms like the numbness in your hand, the weakness and the incoordination BUT it could be coming from your shoulder not your wrist. All of the nerves that run down your arm, come out of your neck and then go underneath your collarbone and then go down your arm and that's how we have function. So especially for moms after having kids we're already pulled forward because thank you pregnancy all snuggled time is down in this position. So you're putting more pressure on those nerves just by having that forward posture.
Then you're trying to hold this cute little cuddly thing and try to keep it safe and feel comfortable and secure and sometimes for hours. This can make your nerve agitated anywhere from the neck when it comes out of your spine all the way down, anywhere in your arm. So when you go to a doctor and you're like my hands numb, they could tell you have carpal tunnel and not even look anywhere further and give you wrist stretches which could honestly, sometimes that gets rid of your pain. No harm, no foul, but sometimes if that pain or that numbness and tingling didn't quite go away, the way that you were hoping for that’s something that I help people tease through. We're going to look at your elbow and your shoulder and how everything's working together and find out where that nerve is really irritated. Or if it's irritated at multiple levels, you know, go big or go home moms, right? If you're going to irritate that nerve, it might as well be anywhere along that line. Some people ask “are there stretches” and “are there positional changes that I can do that can get rid of it?”
Most definitely! We would definitely talk about how to adjust how you're holding your baby, or maybe how your workspace is set up if that's really where the problem is. And stretches are a big part of it recovery because you want to be able to pull yourself backwards. The truth is that those muscles, even if you stretched them into the best possible position and you're in the most ideal position possible, if those muscles no longer know what they're supposed to do because of how long they’ve been in this condition or how stretched out they are or how agitated the nerves are.
Then all that stretching will help reduce your pain, but it won't necessarily get rid of your symptoms. I think when people stretch and they move around and it doesn't get rid of it, especially when they're doing that on their own. I think that's when all the anxiety comes. They're like, well, I've been stretching and I've been doing all these things. I've been icing. I changed how I'm holding my baby and I'm doing all these things that the doctor told me to do, but this pain is still there. It has to be so much worse than what they think it is. It cannot just be a carpal tunnel, or whatever. It just has to be worse because nothing should be this painful. And in truth, you could be doing absolutely everything that you can, but it's really hard to make your body move in a way that doesn't feel normal to it. If you've been moving in a certain position in a certain way, then to retraining that motion you would have to know what you're supposed to be doing. You'd have to understand what is supposed to happen.
Especially new moms, we have too many things to pay attention to try to remember exactly how I'm supposed to move and how I would have moved nine months ago. Even me, like I had to really think about what was going on in my body before I realized I was giving myself carpal tunnel and then go and do the things that I know to fix it. So as a new mom, give yourself a little bit of grace and just see if talking with somebody will help you alleviate the anxiety that goes along with your arm, going numb, your hand, going down, and then being afraid that you're going to drop items or worse your kid. I mean, that would be absolutely devastating.
If this is something that you're dealing with right now feel free to reach out with me. We can talk and we can just find out if physical therapy is even the right place for you to start. And conversations. I just love talking to people. So I don't charge to have a conversation. Let's just talk and let's make sure that you're going into the right place so that you can feel good in your own body. I hope that this information is very helpful. And please, please, please share this information with anybody who would benefit from hearing it.
WE HELP ACTIVE ADULTS OVERCOME THEIR ACHES AND PAINS TO GET THEM BACK TO THEIR FAVORITE ACTIVITIES WITHOUT MEDICATION, INJECTIONS OR SURGERIES.
Dr. Molly McDonald