Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in Pregnancy

What is Carpal tunnel?

In our wrist there are eight small bones known as the carpal bones. These bones are in a semi-circle position with the base or the roof being formed by the carpal ligament. Inside the “semi-circle” are tendons, vessels and nerves which are involved in the movement of the hand.

What is Carpal tunnel syndrome and what is it’s’ link to pregnancy?

One of the nerves in this region is known as the median nerve. The median nerve’s function is two fold. The first is to relay to the brain the “feel” of what you are touching and the second is to relay signals from the brain to allow thumb movement.

Carpal tunnel syndrome arises when the median nerve comes under pressure. During pregnancy the body starts to retain more fluid leading to the swelling of hands (normal during pregnancy). When some of that fluid concentrates in the area of the carpal tunnel the median nerve comes under pressure leading women to experience the symptoms of Carpal tunnel syndrome.

The symptoms in most cases are felt in both hands. The symptoms can arise at any point in the pregnancy but in most cases begin (or worsen) in the second half of the pregnancy as the fluid retention increases.

The symptoms experienced are:

  • A burning sensation or pain in the wrist, thumb, hand or arm.

  • Tingling and numbness in the hands.

  • Feeling weakness in the grip.

  • Swelling of hands

The symptoms tend to be felt much more strongly at night or when waking up in the morning. This is due to the accumulation of fluids (due to limited movement when sleeping) or due to a poor sleeping position. In pregnant women the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome go away within three months of the baby being born. However in some women the symptoms are experienced for over a year and do require treatment.


Managing the symptoms of CTS in pregnancy

There are many things that women can do to manage their symptoms. The first is to avoid any activities that worsen the symptoms. Also high lifting should not be avoided. When sitting chairs with arm rests should be chosen and those arm rests should be used.

Another important thing is to keep the wrist in a straight or neutral position. The hand should be in line with the forearm. Also women should try not to bend their hand up or downwards. General swelling can be reduced by cutting down on salty food and elevating the legs when sitting, to name a few. Find more topic here

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