Yes, babies can cause carpal tunnel

Carpal tunnel

I had carpal tunnel when I was pregnant. Apparently it’s a fairly common thing thanks to retaining extra water and loosening ligaments – it’s something of a perfect storm for carpal tunnel. However, after giving birth, mine seemed to go away. The swelling in my hands went down, and I generally felt better. But then my right hand swelled up and was painful – my GP even did X-Rays and then assumed it was gout. But it wasn’t gout. Nope, it was the return of my carpal tunnel.

It is now really bad in my left hand, and moderately bad in my right hand. I’ve been to an occupational therapist and a physiotherapist for it. The joys of breastfeeding mean that I can’t take any strong medications for it, or even consider surgery at the moment, not that I really want to go for surgery for it. So what’s going on? Yes, I spend the majority of my day in front of a computer, but that’s not actually the root cause of my pain and suffering. Nope, that can be attributed to my ever-growing bundle of joy.

Apparently, I fit the profile for carpal tunnel because of Harley. You see, I nurse her a few times a day still, which means her weight ends up against my arms, hands or wrists in sometimes less-than-ergonomic positions. But there’s something else I’m doing that really doesn’t help. I hold Harley. Like, a lot. I always seem to be throwing her on my hip and doing whatever needs to be done. It’s not always for long period – just to get from point A to point B. Or maybe it’s keeping an arm around her while she plays on my lap. Whatever the position, I’m hanging on to her, which tenses a muscle under my shoulder and pinches the nerves that cause carpal tunnel.

Thankfully, the OT and the physio have given me some advice, and here it is for you:

  • Stretch your neck on each side for 30 seconds per side, alternating three times (so a total of three minutes of stretching), three times per day
  • Stretch your shoulders (arms across your body) for one minute per side, alternating three times (so a total of six minutes of stretching), three times per day
  • Take frequent breaks while working or after breast feeding to shake out arms, shoulders and neck
  • Sleep wearing wrist braces

So far, I’ve been doing all of that, plus seeing the physiotherapist to have her do deep tissue work on my neck and back to try and release the triggers causing the carpal tunnel. I must say, though, that it’s fairly uneven in the results so far. I feel great when I leave her office, with neck and shoulders feeling fantastic. But by that evening or the next morning, everything is tight again. And despite getting treatment from the OT and physio for a couple weeks now, I still can’t make a fist with my left hand. I suppose I just need to keep working it, but so far things aren’t going too well.

I suppose this is one of the downsides of attachment parenting. I’m not going to stop holding my kid, nor will I wean her so that I can go for a different type of treatment. But I am worried about the longterm effect on my nerves and tendons, so will definitely keep working towards a solution. And yes, I do need to get a baby carrier. I’m just nervous about forking out a grand or two for a carrier without knowing if it will even be comfortable for me and Harley. I really wish we could do an extended trial of them before purchasing.

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