Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

January 17, 2015

Carpal tunnel syndrome can be an annoying complication of pregnancy, affecting 30 - 50% of women.


What things may indicate I could have carpal tunnel syndrome?

If you have been experiencing pins & needles, pain, stiffness, numbness or weakness in your hands, often worse at night time or with lots of wrist activity, then you could have carpal tunnel syndrome. The symptoms can be very mild through to more severe.


What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when there is compression on one of the nerves (median nerve) that runs into the hand through the front of your wrist. Increased fluid and softer connective tissue in and around the carpal tunnel on the front of the wrist is often the mechanism for this problem in pregnancy.


What can I do to manage it?

If you suspect you may have carpal tunnel syndrome then it is worthwhile speaking to your doctor or physiotherapist/hand therapist to have an individual assessment and management plan developed.


Other tips include:

  • avoid aggravating tasks, movements or positions

  • try to avoid bending your wrists all the way forward and backward

  • avoid heavy lifting or repetitive tasks

  • try to elevate and support your wrists when resting

  • it may help to avoid sleeping on the side that you have the symptoms

  • cool water or an ice pack may be helpful for managing the pain and swelling

  • a wrist support or brace may be prescribed

  • gentle exercise may be helpful for reducing swelling

  • modify tasks to avoid excessive use of the wrists i.e. use a pen grip, thicker handles on objects, break tasks up to allow rest

  • maintain your movement in your neck/shoulder/elbow/hand to avoid stiffness


During labour you may need to modify your positions to avoid using your wrists and hands for support i.e. lean over an exercise ball


Will my carpal tunnel go away after I've had my baby?

In many cases, carpal tunnel will resolve itself as the body returns to a pre-pregnancy state i.e. less fluid retention.  However, this may not occur immediately and in some cases many of the new tasks that are required with a new baby may aggravate pain i.e. feeding a baby, lifting/carrying and changing a baby.


The Women's (Royal Women's Hospital) have a great fact sheet about Carpal tunnel syndrome in pregnancy.  So check it out if you would like more tips or information.


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