Pregnancy-related Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
What is it?
The carpal tunnel is located in the wrist and it is a passageway for tendons and nerves to travel through. The base of the tunnel is made up of wrist carpal bones and the top of the tunnel is made from ligaments. As a result, these stiff structures only allow little movement for the tendons and nerves to move. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition where the tendons and nerves on the front of the wrist become irritated. The carpal tunnel becomes even more restricted due to inflammation and applies pressure onto these nerves and tendons which results in painful wrist movements. During pregnancy, carpal tunnel syndrome commonly occurs due to the hormonal changes. These changes can result in fluid retention around the joints includng the carpal tunnel. Pregnancy changes can also impact the ligaments of the joints. These changes can both lead to nerve compression resulting in the pregnancy wrist pain. This condition mainly occurs in the third trimester of pregnancy and in some cases can continue during the postpartum period.
What are some of the signs/symptoms?
With this condition the most common symptoms you may experience as follows
- Numbness and/or tingling into thumb, index and middle finger. This is a common presentation at night.
- Burning sensation into hand
- Swelling in wrist and hand
- Weakness in the hand especially with gripping or holding heavy items
- Pain that can refer into the arm and shoulders
- Avoid repetitive or aggravating movements such as household chores, food preparation and typing
- Avoid bending wrist forwards and backwards during the day and night
- Avoid heavy lifting like carrying heavy grocery bags
- Elevate arm and hand
- Apply ice around your wrist for 20 minutes every 2-3 hours. Be mindful of skin and use a towel to wrap around ice.
- Apply compression bandage around wrist
- Keep wrist in neutral position as much as possible at night and use of a wrist splint may help to prevent any excessive movements resulting in compression.
A women’s health physiotherapist will be able to assist you with the above and help to find management strategies specific to your situation. We can provide an individualised program that involves manual therapy, range of motion exercises including a strengthening exercise program. Support wear can also be provided through taping or help you to identify the right brace to use. We work with you closely to ensure your goals are meet and restore function as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, in some cases carpal tunnel may continue into the postpartum period. Check out this blog post that talks about postpartum wrist pain and other common conditions that can occur in this period.
It is important that you seek help early to prevent ongoing issues such as weakness and pain. If you are experiencing wrist pain in your pregnancy and need further help, do not hesitate to reach out and g your baby during breastfeeding and bottle-feeding.
Written by Gaaya (Check out bio HERE)
Bobowik, P. (2019). Effectiveness of physiotherapy in carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). Advances in Rehabilitation, 33(2), 47-58. https://doi.org/10.5114/areh.2019.85023
Kwolek A, Zwolińska J. Immediate and long-term effects of selected physiotherapy methods in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome. Ortopedia, Traumatologia, Rehabilitacja. 2011 Nov-Dec;13(6):555-564. DOI: 10.5604/15093492.971040. PMID: 22248460.