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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome During Pregnancy

4 min read

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a medical circumstance that is pretty common among the people who are more often than not linked with work that demands repetitious hand movements, like computer programmers. However, CTS is also found to happen due to pregnancy, especially towards the second half of gestation, obviously, due to a different cause.
Carpal tunnel in pregnancy

What Is Carpal Tunnel?

The carpal tunnel is a small passage in the ‘palm’ side of the wrist, where the forearm meets the hand. Small bones and a strong band of connective tissue, flexor retinaculum, which arches over the carpal bones, covering them, together form the carpal tunnel.
Several tendons, blood vessels, and nerves, including the median nervethat controls sensation and movement of the hand, passes through this tunnel.

What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

As we already explained, nine long flexor tendons pass through the carpal tunnel. If any of these tendons swells or damaged, the tunnel become narrow compressing the median nerve. This will result in pain and numbness in the palm side of the index, middle, and ring fingers. The pain that starts at the wrist can radiate towards your upper arm. You can feel that a dull ache comes and goes during the day, often worsening in the night. In severe cases, your hands might feel weak to hold or lift things, or you may find yourself getting clumsier with your hands.

What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome During Pregnancy?

During pregnancy, carpal tunnel syndrome is brought about by the collection of fluid in the tissues (edema). Some of this fluid can gather in the carpal tunnel, pressurizing and compressing the median nerve, which results in pain and numbness in your hands and fingers. Around 60% of pregnant women are found to experience the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. Because fluid retention maximizes during the second trimester, the symptoms are also found to worsen during the same time.
Here are some facts regarding the carpal syndrome during pregnancy-

  • CTS usually happens during the second half of pregnancy
  • It usually disappears after delivery, though it is not unusual the CTS continuing a few days after delivery until the hormone and body fluid level come back to normal
  • If CTS is experienced during one pregnancy, chances are higher experiencing it in the following pregnancy too
  • Multiple pregnancies increase the chances of CTS
What Are The Symptoms Of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Symptoms vary from person to person. The pain can be mild, moderate, dull or severe, depending on the pressure and compression undergone by the median nerve. Carpal tunnel syndrome may affect one or both hands. The symptoms generally get worse during the night or early morning. The main symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome in the course of pregnancy are:

  1. Torment or throbbing in the fingers, wrists or lower arm
  2. Swollen fingers with burning sensation
  3. Difficulty in holding objects
  4. Difficult to attempt tasks that involve small parts, which need the coordination of the fingers
  5. Dull pain worsening during the night
What Is The Effect Of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome On The Unborn Baby?

Though the carpal tunnel syndrome causes pain and discomfort to the mother, it does no harm to the developing baby.
Carpal tunnel management

How Can I Get Relief From Carpal Tunnel Pain During Pregnancy?

Try the following tips to ease the symptoms of the carpal tunnel syndrome:

  1. Take short breaks in-between the work that demands repetitive motions of fingers and hand
  2. Shake your hand frequently. This will help to increase the blood flow, which helps to decrease the accumulation of fluid
  3. Applying an ice pack on the wrist will help to alleviate the pain
  4. Keeping a green or white cabbage leaf in the wrist help to reduce the swelling
  5. Try keeping the water under cold water and warm water alternatively (one minute each) for 5 to 6 minutes. This alternative thermal therapy is real well for reducing the irritations of the CTS symptoms
  6. During computer work, keep your wrist straight and keep the elbow higher than the hands
  7. While sleeping, place your arm in a neutral position by using a splint or a brace. Avoid keeping your hands below your head during the night
  8. Identify and refrain from doing those activities that alleviate your pain and discomfort
What Are The Treatment Options For CTS?

If the symptoms are not severe, non- surgical treatments are suggested by the doctor and will watch if the symptoms are getting better. Some of the treatments suggested by the doctor involve:

  • Taking frequent breaks from repetitive tasks
  • Physiotherapy to stretch and strengthen the arm and hand muscle
  • Wearing wrist splints during night, which can reduce the pressure on the median nerve

Another treatment option is surgery. However, unless the pain is intolerable the doctor will hold the surgical option until delivery. Sometimes, cortisol shots are also given.

When Should I Seek Medical Attention?

You should consult with your doctor:

  • If the pain interferes with your sleep
  • If the symptoms are constant and severe and you are experiencing persisting loss of sensation

The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome should resolve themselves within a few days post delivery; however, if you feel that they are not improving, make it a point to mention it to your health care provider. Sometimes, alternate medicine therapy or a surgery may become necessary to resolve the issue.

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