Pregnant and achy wrists - what to do?

Many pregnant women get achy wrists especially when loading them in the hands and knee position. It is pretty common and it came up as a complaint last evening in our Prenatal Alignment Class. None of the common aches and pains of pregnancy need to be endured. Wrists were not made to ache during pregnancy. Our bodies are better than that. We just have to use our body correctly to get the best out of it - even during pregnancy.

What is going on?
It starts with the fact that pregnancy causes a large increase of extracelluar fluid. That fluid lives in your arteries, veines and lymph vessels. It needs to move around because when fluid is retained in an area, pressure rises (because you have more fluid in a space that didn't get bigger to hold the fluid) and something or other will be compressed. In the case of the wrist, it is the carpal tunnel which is a passageway in the wrist that houses the median nerve. When this passageway becomes smaller, the nerve is then compressed and that is probably the pain that your are feeling.

So how does the carpal tunnel get compressed?
The carpal tunnel also houses the muscles that flex our wrists. So what do we do each and every day, all day long? Yep, flexing our wrists. We type, we hold the steering wheel of our car, we clutch our handbags, we carry carseats, we cook, we type again, and so on. Does that wrist position look familiar to you? wrist_flexion.jpg
When we position our joints in the same way all the time, the muscles that create the joint movement don't get to live to their full potential. They are forced to always stay flexed. They are rarely allowed to extend. When was the last time to washed the kitchen floor on your hands and knees? That would be extension.


So basically, a muscle that is never allowed to move in another direction doesn't change in length. It stays stuck (tight) in one position. And because muscle plays a major role in moving fluid around our bodies and because muscle needs to change length on a constant basis to do that, you can see how tight muscles in your wrists cause the retention of fluid. Voila, pain. Because there is more fluid to move around during pregnancy and because its likely that carrying your growing baby has also caused more tension in general, the chance of you getting pain is higher. Voila, achy wrists during pregnancy.

Its not just the wrist flexor muscles!
Tension in the neck and shoulders contribute a whole deal to tension in the hands. And vice versa. It's all connected. In class we'll spend the next 2 weeks on upper body and will have a nice exercise class to get some blood and lymph flow going between the shoulders and fingers. If you aren't in class and don't have a Restorative Exercise teacher in your town, you will see a link to an online class and a DVD at the bottom of this page.

What to do to prevent, reduce or eliminate wrist pain?
Assess your hand position as you type, cook, carry your older child, ect.
You want to get the knuckles to line up with your wrist.
Take a break at least every 30minutes and do this hand stretch (stretch out your legs at the same time and stand up).

Tuck your elbow into the side of your torso. Hold your lower arm out in front of you with the palm facing up. With the help of your other hand, extend each of your fingers as you see in the image. Hold each finger stretch for 10seconds (or longer).

To give your thumb a stretching experience, extend it away from the rest of the hand until your middle finger and thumb form a 90° angle.


Spend some time on hands and knees. If the pain is worse when in this position, make it short and do the finger stretches in between. Your wrists will adapt.

Reduce tension in your shoulders by keeping the shoulders away from your ears. We are very good at pulling our shoulders up while chopping veggies or driving or talking or walking outside in the cold or even sleeping. Become aware of your body and the constant tension patterns you create yourself.

Here is a link to one of Katy Bowman's (my amazing teacher) hour long online exercise classes: Super Supple Shoulders
You can also go to my online store and buy Katy Bowman's 'My Hands Hurt' DVD.

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