Wrist Pain During Pregnancy: Causes and Solutions

July 8, 2023
Priyanka Sonkushre – July 8, 2023
wrist pain during pregnancy

Talk about pregnancy-related discomforts, and we imagine things like running to puke now and then,…

Talk about pregnancy-related discomforts, and we imagine things like running to puke now and then, difficulty in passing stools, and pain in the lower back. But have you heard that wrist pain is also something that many women complain of during pregnancy and that it significantly affects their quality of life?

Close to 60% of pregnant women complain of having hand and wrist issues, so it is more prevalent than you would have thought. Therefore, we have come up with some very useful bits of information on wrist pain that arises during pregnancy so that if at all you experience it at some point in time, you know how to take care of it.

Understanding the Causes of Wrist Pain During Pregnancy

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) and De-Quervain’s tenosynovitis are two common conditions affecting pregnant women. Both give rise to wrist pain and other associated symptoms. But what is it that makes women develop wrist issues when they’re pregnant? The reason pregnant women are more susceptible to these issues is due to the changes their bodies go through when they’re pregnant. Typical causes of pregnancy-related wrist pain are:

Hormonal Changes

It is no secret that a woman’s body undergoes major hormonal changes as soon as she conceives. As the body works toward preparing itself for fetal growth and delivery, there is a spike in the levels of several pregnancy-related hormones. These changes significantly affect the musculoskeletal system and alter how ligaments and tendons respond to movement. Reports suggest that besides acting on the pelvic area, these hormonal effects also impact other areas, including the wrist ligaments, creating issues like wrist pain and tenderness.

Increased Fluid Retention

As pregnancy progresses, especially during the second and third trimesters, a woman experiences increased water retention. This is what makes you appear puffy and swollen. Around this time, the adrenal glands produce more aldosterone and cortisol, which are responsible for retaining fluids in the tissues.

Increased fluid retention is another cause of wrist pain when pregnant. If your wrist pain is due to CTS, the excess fluid buildup in your wrist tissues pinches the median nerve that runs from the wrist down to the fingers, causing a feeling of numbness and tingling. However, if the reason for your wrist pain is De-Quervain’s tenosynovitis, fluid retention restricts the movement of tendons present at the base of the thumb and wrist because the covering of tendons develops swelling and inflammation.

Repetitive Strain on the Wrists 

Wrist pain is usually mild at the beginning, but with time the problem exacerbates, mainly because of repetitive stress on the wrists. Activities like daily household chores or working on the computer put excess strain on the already-affected wrists and result in increased pain and tenderness. Taking care of wrist pain as soon as it appears is the key to preventing excessive pain and discomfort.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Wrist Pain During Pregnancy

symptoms and diagnosis of wrist pain

Common Symptoms Experienced By Pregnant Women With Wrist Pain 

CTS-Associated Symptoms:

  • Swelling in fingers
  • Tingling and numbness in the wrist, fingers, and hands
  • Difficulty grasping objects
  • Trouble performing activities like buttoning and unbuttoning clothes
  • Pain in the wrist, hand, or both

De-Quervain Tenosynovitis-Associated Symptoms:

  • Pain and swelling in the wrist and base of the thumb
  • Difficulty grasping, picking, and holding objects
  • Pain when trying to make a fist
  • Pain gets worse when you move the thumb or wrist

Diagnostic Methods Used By Healthcare Professionals

A correct diagnosis is the first step to feeling better. So don’t delay your visit to the doctor if wrist pain starts bothering you. Your doctor will question you about your symptoms and if you have experienced wrist pain before. He will probably conduct a physical examination of your wrist to see how you feel when he applies pressure at certain spots.

A CTS diagnosis is confirmed if you have pain while bending the wrist or if your symptoms appear when the doctor taps on or presses the median nerve. You may even have to take an Electromyography (EMG) to determine if there is any nerve damage and how bad it is.

Similarly, the diagnosis of De-Qervain’s tendonitis is confirmed if you feel pain when your doctor applies pressure to your wrist close to your thumb. In addition, he may ask you to perform the Finkelstein test, wherein you will need to bend your thumb across your palm and then bring down your fingers over it. Next, you will be asked to bend your wrist toward your pinky finger. If this movement hurts your thumb and wrist, your doctor will likely confirm this diagnosis.

As you can see, pregnancy-related wrist pain can be due to different conditions. This is what makes it necessary to get a proper diagnosis so that you can get treatment specific to your condition. An accurate diagnosis will help you feel better soon.

Managing and Treating Wrist Pain During Pregnancy

managing and treating of wrist pain

Lifestyle Modifications and Self-Care Techniques

The moment you start experiencing wrist pain, it is important to take remedial action to prevent it from getting worse. Do not overuse your wrists, and make sure you take frequent breaks to give rest to your hands and wrists. Use a towel to cover an ice pack and apply it to your wrist and wherever it hurts to reduce pain and inflammation. And engage in gentle wrist exercises and stretches if your condition permits you to relieve the strain on your wrists.

Wrist Supports and Braces for Pain Relief

Your doctor may suggest you wear a splint or a brace to keep your wrist, palm, and forearm from moving. The splint will keep your wrist in one place and help relieve your symptoms. In CTS, the splint will curb tingling and numbness, especially when you wear it while sleeping. For those with De-Quervain’s tenosynovitis, the thumb splint should be worn 24 hours a day for a few weeks to keep the thumb and wrist firm in place and relieve the discomfort.

Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy

Therapies such as physical and occupational therapy also prove beneficial in curtailing wrist pain in pregnant women. Your therapist will examine your condition and observe how you use your wrists and hands while working. He may then guide you to use it the right way if you have not been doing it correctly. You will also be taught some exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles around your wrists, which will help ease your pain.

Medications and Surgery for Severe Cases

For mild to moderate wrist pain, doctors often recommend using NSAIDs like ibuprofen, which are available over the counter. If that does not help, your doctor may give you a corticosteroid injection into the carpal tunnel or into the tendon covering to reduce pain and swelling. In severe cases of wrist pain, where simple remedies and medications fail to provide relief, doctors suggest the last approach, which is surgery.

For CTS, the surgery aims to relieve pressure on the median nerve, which is done by cutting the ligament that presses it. In the case of tendonitis of the thumb, the surgeon relieves the pressure by opening the sheath of the affected tendon and allowing it to glide smoothly without hindrance.

Diet and Exercise

Besides following your doctor’s recommendations, it is also important for pregnant women to consume a healthy, well-balanced diet. This ensures that the body has all the nutrients it needs to heal and recover. So never neglect nutritious food, and make sure you meet your caloric needs to support yourself and your baby. Also, make it a point to keep your body moving throughout your pregnancy. Regular exercise will strengthen your muscles, improve your fitness levels, and shorten the period of recovery. 

Preventing Wrist Pain During Pregnancy

lady resting with wrist pain

Now that you know that pregnancy can also give rise to wrist pain, it is better to learn and practice a few preventative measures so you do not develop this problem and save yourself the trouble.

Here’s what you can do to keep wrist pain at bay:

  1. Maintain proper posture and body mechanics as you go about your daily activities.
  2. Use cushions and pillows to support your wrist area if you feel the strain.
  3. Make ergonomic adjustments to your workplace so you can position your wrist correctly.
  4. Invest in an ergonomic keyboard to support your wrists and hands.
  5. Perform some light stretching exercises to take care of your wrists.
  6. Avoid strenuous activities that may excessively strain your wrists and cause pain.
  7. Exercise regularly to maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy, as excessive weight gain can also lead to wrist issues in pregnant women.
  8. Take regular breaks when performing activities with repetitive wrist and hand movements, such as typing or scrubbing kitchen tiles.

When to Seek Medical Help

seeking medical help for wrist pain

If you have mild wrist pain, you would probably try to manage it on your own. While that’s a good idea for the general public, pregnancy calls for more caution. So, it’s always better to share everything you experience with your doctor so that if there’s anything requiring medical attention, he can make a timely diagnosis and offer treatment options at the right time.

In the case of wrist pain, you should know it’s time to visit your doctor if:

  • Numbness and Tingling are Bothering You
  • You Have Ongoing Pain and Discomfort
  • Your Symptoms Have Worsened Over Time
  • You Have Trouble Carrying Out Everyday Activities

In Conclusion

Wrist pain is not something we associate with pregnancy. Probably that’s the reason why many pregnant ladies ignore this symptom and think it will resolve on its own. Though pregnancy-related wrist and hand issues usually settle after the baby is born, they can make it tough for you to go about your daily activities. So, don’t wait for the pain to settle on its own, and speak with your doctor soon. Timely treatment will relieve you of the pain and help you manage this condition successfully.


Q1: What causes wrist pain during pregnancy?

Pregnancy-related factors such as hormonal changes, fluid retention (edema) in wrist tissue, and repeated stress can cause wrist pain in expecting mothers.

Q2: Is wrist pain common during pregnancy?

Yes, contrary to what people believe, wrist pain is quite common in pregnant women, especially during the second and third trimesters.

Q3: How does pregnancy contribute to wrist pain?

Pregnancy brings a host of hormonal changes to the body. Plus, increased water retention affects how tendons and ligaments function in the body, causing wrist and hand pain.

Q4: What are the typical symptoms of wrist pain during pregnancy?

Tingling or numbness in fingers, poor grip, wrist pain that is worse at night, pain and tenderness around the base of the thumb and wrist area, and difficulty picking objects are a few symptoms associated with wrist pain during pregnancy.

  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK442005/
  • https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/disorders/carpal-tunnel-syndrome

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