Women's Healthcare Topics

How to Get Relief from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome If Pregnant?

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome During Pregnancy?

You may associate carpal tunnel syndrome with people whose jobs require them to perform repetitive hand movements, but did you know that 28 percent of pregnant women suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome when they are expecting? Many women actually develop symptoms of this condition for the first time when they're with child.

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve (the nerve in your wrist that helps you move your thumb and the first three fingers on each hand) is compressed. The median nerve travels through your carpel tunnel – a narrow tunnel formed by the bones, ligaments, and other tissues of your wrist. During pregnancy, swelling and fluid retention can increase the pressure in the carpal tunnel, which compresses the median nerve and causes the symptoms carpal tunnel syndrome.

Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

When you have carpal tunnel syndrome, you may have a dull ache, numbness, or pain in your wrist or individual fingers. Swelling and inflammation are also common symptoms of this condition. Sometimes carpal tunnel syndrome can cause weakness and numbness in the arm and shoulder. In severe cases, your hand may feel weak and clumsy.

During pregnancy, carpal tunnel syndrome can affect both hands, and symptoms tend to be worse in the second and third trimester, when swelling and fluid retention is common. Most pregnant women notice these painful symptoms in the middle part of pregnancy, when edema (or water retention in pregnancy) is more of a problem.

The aches and pain from carpal tunnel syndrome is usually worse at night. You may find your wrists and fingers ache when you're working at the computer, or when you have to bend your wrists.

How to Get Relief from Carpal Tunnel

Learn about carpal tunnel syndrome in pregnancy.

Many options are available for the treatment of patients with carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) in pregnancy. For women with mild to moderate carpal tunnel syndrome conservative options in pregnancy include splinting, steroid injections, ultrasound, nerve-gliding exercises, and yoga. Surgery is an effective treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome after pregnancy.

Wrist splinting — A wrist splint or brace maintains the wrist in a neutral position, taking the pressure off the median nerve. Splinting is an effective therapy in reducing carpal tunnel pain during pregnancy. Splints are usually worn at night, but they can be worn continuously.

Steroid injection — Injection of steroids into the region of the carpal tunnel area is intended to reduce tissue inflammation and aid recovery. In general, steroid injections appear effective in reducing pain for one to three months in pregnancy.

Yoga — Yoga may be beneficial for reducing pain caused by carpal tunnel syndrome. Special yoga postures have been designed that show significant pain reduction from carpal tunnel syndrome.

Carpal bone mobilization — Carpal bone mobilization is a physical and occupational therapy technique that involves movement of the bones and joints in the wrist to relieve carpal tunnel pain.

Nerve gliding — Nerve and tendon gliding exercises or maneuvers are performed under the direction of an occupational therapist with subspecialty certification in hand therapy. Nerve gliding is used to restore normal movement around the median nerve resulting in decrease discomfort.

Ultrasound therapy — Ultrasound has been used to promote soft tissue healing around the median nerve, reducing pain, and increasing tissue elasticity.

Carpel Tunnel Syndrome frequently may develop during pregnancy, particularly during the third trimester. In most cases, the symptoms gradually resolve over a period of weeks after delivery. For women who develop CTS during pregnancy, nocturnal wrist splinting is recommended. Surgical decompression is rarely indicated during pregnancy since the pain often resolves shortly after delivery.


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