Carpal Tunnel Syndrome During Pregnancy: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment


Carpal tunnel syndrome is very common during pregnancy. Tingling sensation in the wrist and fingers is carpal tunnel syndrome. It is mainly caused by accumulation of fluid in hands due to pregnancy. It generally affects both the hands. This condition can occur anytime during pregnancy. However it gets worse during the second trimester.

Carpal tunnel syndrome has symptoms like tingling or numbness in hands. Clumsy hands are also a symptom. This problem can be effectively treated at home. Following simple steps like avoiding sleeping on your hands can cure this problem. Also wearing wrist splints are good as cure. Sometimes medications and surgery are necessary if the condition is severe.

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What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

Painful, tingling sensation in fingers, wrists and hands is called carpal tunnel syndrome. There can be a dull pain in the fingers and wrists. Sometimes the tingling can reach the upper arms and forearms as well. In extreme cases it makes your hands feel numb and weak. This situation usually becomes worst at night.

Carpal tunnel syndrome commonly occurs during pregnancy. It affects both hands. This can be quite painful for a mom-to-be.

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Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Any activity or situation that puts pressure on the carpal tunnel leads to this syndrome. There are a few health conditions that can cause carpal tunnel syndrome.

Pregnancy causes swelling that leads to carpal tunnel syndrome. The swelling decreases the space in the wrist that is the “tunnel”. There is fluid accumulation in the carpal tunnel in the wrists. “If there’s fluid accumulation and/or tightness in [the carpal tunnel], the nerve gets squashed first because it’s the softest structure,” says Angela Growse, a physiotherapist at the Rebirth Wellness Centre in London.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Also pregnancy leads to the increase in breasts. This further causes the shoulders to tighten. This puts added pressure on the median nerve that runs all the way from the neck to your fingers. This is another reason why carpal tunnel syndrome occurs commonly during pregnancy.

Other than pregnancy, excessive activity of the hands can also cause this syndrome. Spending too much time on the computer can also cause carpal tunnel syndrome. Repetitive hand movements can cause this problem.

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Signs and symptoms

  • Tingling sensation in the fingers. This is a major sign of carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Numbness in parts of the hands, mainly fingers.
  • Sometimes there is a burning sensation in the fingers. This is another symptom of carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Cramps in the fingers, especially in the morning.
  • Often there may be a weakness in your thumbs. This is another sign.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome can also be identified by clumsy fingers. There might be frequent dropping of objects. Inability to hold an object is a sign of this problem.
  • Inability to button up clothes properly.
  • Suddenly waking up at night with numbness in hands. This is a common symptom of carpal tunnel syndrome. It mostly occurs at night. Sleep is disturbed at night with hand pain.
  • Problems during driving because of numbness in hands.
  • There might be problems faced while opening of bottles and jars. This is another indication of carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • There can be difficulty in shampooing the hair. Clumsiness of fingers creates problems in this simple task also.
  • People can also face problem in brushing their teeth. This is a sign of carpal tunnel syndrome.

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Usually doctors suggest simple treatments to cure carpal tunnel syndrome. These are generally non-surgical methods. The treatments are:

  • Wearing a wrist splint while sleeping at night. This is a simple method to reduce the pain and numbness that occurs at night.
  • Acupuncture can be another effective treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome. It relieves the pressure created on the carpal tunnel and reduces the problem.
  • Physiotherapy is another preferred mode of treating this syndrome.
  • Often doing light exercises can cure carpal tunnel syndrome. Gentle exercises of grip strengthening can be effective as treatment. This prevents fluid retention in the hands during pregnancy.
  • Practicing good posture is useful as a cure of this syndrome.
  • Cold water bath and hot water bath for the hands can cure carpal tunnel syndrome. This is a safe cure that can be done during pregnancy. It will prevent the swelling due to fluid accumulation.
  • Taking frequent breaks in between doing activities can alleviate the tingling and numbness in fingers.
  • Massaging of the forearms will also cure the pain of carpal tunnel syndrome. This is a natural pain relief.
  • Electrotherapy is another treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Medications are also used for treating carpal tunnel syndrome. But generally doctors avoid giving any medication during pregnancy.
  • If nothing else works as cure, the last mode of treatment is surgery. However this is really rare.According to a study published in Southern Medical Journal, carpal tunnel syndrome rarely required surgery.

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  • Avoid sleeping with your hands curled or in a fixed position at night. Try to sleep with your hands elevated on the pillows.
  • Try to avoid engaging in repetitive movements of the hand. Take breaks while doing a task.
  • Avoid keeping your hand in a single position for a long time.
  • Use your forearms whenever possible, instead of your wrist.
  • While holding your baby use pillows to take the baby’s weight off your arms.
  • Carry weight on your forearms. Avoid using your wrists as much as possible.
  • Do not hesitate to ask for help in household activities. This will give your hands the much needed rest.

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Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common problem during pregnancy. It usually occurs after the 32nd week. Pregnancy causes the hands to swell as a result of fluid retention. This leads to painful tingling and numbness in the fingers and wrists. This syndrome is mild and can be easily cured. It fades away after giving birth as the swelling reduces.

There are several easy treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome. However, if the condition gets worse with time and the pain becomes intolerable consult a doctor. Don’t try any remedies before you talk to your doctor.