CARPAL TUNNEL IN PREGNANCY
About one quarter of women develop some symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome during pregnancy. Whilst the symptoms can appear at any time, they are most common in the second and third trimesters when there may be greater fluid retention. The symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome include pain and numbness in the hands and fingers which may occur in one or both hands. It may just manifest in the form of mild hand weakness through to severe pain that disturbs sleep during pregnancy.
WHAT IS CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME?
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome occurs when the median nerve is compressed as it passes through the Carpal Tunnel, a tunnel formed by the carpal wrist bones and a band of connective tissue encircling the wrist, preventing the nerve from functioning properly.
The ‘tunnel’ contains nine tendons as well as the median nerve and so is a narrow place. The swelling and fluid retention of pregnancy can increase the pressure inside the Carpal Tunnel.
Other symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome include
- morning stiffness or cramping of the hands
- burning sensations in the fingers
- frequently dropping of objects
For pregnant women, the symptoms are most frequent at night or on waking. Shifting sleeping position and propping the arm up with pillows may help. Consult your GP or midwife if the pain and numbness interferes with your sleep or daily routine.
There is a lack of research into self-help treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome so you may need to find out what helps by trial and error. If in doubt, see a physiotherapist who may give you wrist splints, which can help take pressure off the nerves. The splints keep your wrists in a position which maximises the space in the carpal tunnel and has proved useful to many with carpal tunnel syndrome.
Therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic, naturopathy, yoga and massage have also been beneficial to some patients. Please ensure if you are seeking alternative therapies, that your consultant has experience in pregnancy.
THE GOOD NEWS! symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome disappear after the birth.
If pain persists after baby is born, then consult a Physiotherapist or GP. Occasionally simple surgery is needed to relieve the pressure on the median nerve, which runs down the arm into the hand.