15 Oct Understanding and Coping With Carpal Tunnel Syndrome During Pregnancy
One of the least talked about, but very common occurrences in pregnancy is carpal tunnel syndrome. In this article, we will explore what CTS is, why it occurs during pregnancy and its symptoms. Most importantly, we will look at how to manage and alleviate its effects.
Understanding Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway in the wrist that protects the median nerve and tendons. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm to the hand, becomes compressed or irritated. This compression can result in pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the hand and fingers.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome during Pregnancy
CTS is relatively common during pregnancy, affecting approximately 3/10 expectant mothers. The exact reasons for its occurrence are not fully understood. However, hormonal changes, fluid retention, and increased pressure on the median nerve due to weight gain are believed to contribute to its development.
Recognizing the Symptoms
The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome during pregnancy often manifest in the second or third trimester and may include:
- Numbness or tingling in the thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers.
- Pain or discomfort in the hand, wrist, or forearm.
- Weakness in the affected hand, leading to difficulty with gripping or performing fine motor tasks.
- Difficulty finding a comfortable position to rest. It may get more noticeable during the night without the distractions of the day.
Fortunately, there are several precautions and self-care measures that can help manage carpal tunnel syndrome during pregnancy.
Consider the following recommendations
- Take regular breaks: If you frequently engage in repetitive activities such as typing or writing, take frequent breaks to rest your hands and wrists.
- Maintain good posture: Practice proper ergonomics while sitting or working, ensuring that your wrists are in a neutral and relaxed position.
- Avoid activities that worsen symptoms: Identify any activities or movements that exacerbate your symptoms and try to avoid or modify them accordingly.
- Use a wrist brace: A wrist brace can provide support and stability, relieving pressure on the median nerve. Consult with your healthcare provider to determine the most suitable brace for your needs.
Exercises for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Relief
In addition to taking precautions, certain exercises can help alleviate the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. These exercises aim to stretch and strengthen the affected area. Here are a few simple exercises you can try:
- Wrist stretches: Gently extend your arm, palm facing up, and use your other hand to pull your fingers back towards your body, feeling a stretch in your wrist. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat a few times.
- Finger taps: Lightly tap each finger of your affected hand against your thumb, one at a time, as if you’re playing the piano. Repeat this exercise for a minute or two.
- Hand and wrist circles: Make a fist with your affected hand, and then slowly rotate your wrist in circles. Clockwise and counterclockwise to promote flexibility and relieve stiffness.
In many cases, carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) symptoms experienced during pregnancy may subside or improve after childbirth. The hormonal changes and fluid retention that contribute to CTS often diminish after pregnancy, reducing symptoms.
However, it’s important to note that for some women, CTS symptoms may persist even after giving birth. Breastfeeding, caring for a newborn, and using repetitive hand movements involved in childcare can still put strain on the wrists and exacerbate symptoms.
Seeking Professional Help with Western Women’s and Men’s Health
If you continue to experience symptoms of CTS after pregnancy, it is advisable to practise the preventive measures mentioned earlier, such as avoiding repetitive hand movements, maintaining good posture, and using ergonomic tools, can help alleviate CTS symptoms and aid in recovery both during and after pregnancy.
Additionally, consult with a healthcare professional or a physiotherapist. They can assess your condition, provide appropriate treatments or exercises, and offer guidance on managing the symptoms.
To make an appointment with a physio to assess your symptoms, please book here.