The American Pregnancy Association states the average birth weight for a newborn is between six and nine pounds, more closely, 7.5 pounds. That weight really doesn't seem like much in comparison to day-to-day objects you're picking up, like a jug of milk, laundry detergent, the cat – but you can bet it catches up with you, fast.
If you're right-handed, you probably cradle your sweet baby in your left arm so you can use your dominant hand for pretty much everything else. Your left arm is bent at a 90-degree angle or less and in a flexed state while you hold your baby. Carriers and boppies certainly help, but the redundant and consistent pick-ups can eventually damage the soft tissue and nerves surrounding the elbow.
Ulnar Nerve Entrapment, also referred to as Cubital Tunnel Syndrome, is often an overlooked diagnosis. It's when the ulnar nerve, which travels from the shoulder through the elbow joint and into the hand, becomes compressed. This compression leads to tingling and numbness all the way down the outside of the arm and into the ring and pinky fingers. Most people experiencing this problem will experience numbness nightly, as well as when driving, typing or talking on the phone – any activity with the elbow bent.
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It might take a while for a mom to realize that she's not just sore, but there's actually more going on with her arm pain. Once you experience these symptoms, get it checked out right away. The longer the compression occurs, the more likely you are to become a candidate for surgical treatment. Not trying to scare you! But if you think about it, how much can you pinch a nerve until it no longer functions properly? There is a chance it could go away on its own with a diligent approach to home treatment.
Try to resolve it yourself. Since bending it causes the compression, you can loosely wrap your elbow with a towel and tape. You can try some therapy exercises by rotating the arm (palm up, palm down) and flexing the wrist as you go. An unweighted bicep curl is also good practice for the soft tissue. Finally, switching arms and doing less carrying will allow for more recovery. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications can help as well as vitamin B6. Double check with your doctor to make sure this regimen is suitable for you. (via Eat On Hand)
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Do you need surgery? There are three surgical options: the first won't touch the nerve, but will create more room for the nerve to do its thing by adjusting the ligament; the second will redirect the nerve from inside to the joint to the outside of the joint; the third is more complex and will actually shave or chip part of the elbow joint itself to give the nerve more room. (via AAOS)
To avoid compressing this nerve, rest your arms and keep them straight when you're not using them. So when you're driving or sitting, put your hand in your lap. Switch hands when talking on the phone. Sounds totally backward, but avoid using armrests and try to extend the arm in a comfortable position whenever you can. If you're experiencing symptoms, call your general physician or OB/GYN for a referral to a orthopedic doctor. You may end up with a custom splint to wear at night and a handful of exercises to practice daily. Click here for advice on improving communication with your doctor.