Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) results when the median nerve of the arm is compressed as it passes through the wrist, causing pain and weakness. While CTS only affects about four percent of the general population, somewhere between 31-62 percent of pregnant women experience it, according to a 2015 study.
While the relationship between CTS and pregnancy isn’t entirely clear, experts think hormone-related swelling during pregnancy may contribute to CTS. Additional risk factors can include being overweight or obese before becoming pregnant, having pregnancy-related diabetes or hypertension, and having had prior pregnancies.
Recognizing the Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
You may have CTS if you recognize any of these symptoms in one or both hands:
- Numbness, tingling, itching, and pins-and-needles sensations in the thumb, index fingers, and the thumb and long side of the ring finger.
- Trouble grasping small objects and buttoning a shirt or performing other fine motor skills.
- Experiencing symptoms mostly at night (although they can progress to include daytime symptoms).
- Thumb weakness and the loss of temperature sensation (typically experienced in more severe cases of CTS).
- Symptoms that worsen as the pregnancy progresses.
How to Treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in Pregnancy
Experts typically recommend treating the symptoms of CTS conservatively, since most women experience relief from symptoms after delivery.
A certified hand therapist or occupational therapist can help determine the best ways to ease your symptoms. He or she might recommend:
- Wearing a brace at night to keep the wrist in a stable position and/or during the day when engaging in activities that might irritate the nerve.
- Specific modifications for reducing symptoms during daily activities, hobbies, or work tasks.
- Special exercises.
- Myofascial release or nerve glide therapy.
- Cold therapy to decrease swelling, which may involve applying ice wrapped in a towel to your wrist for about 10 minutes several times a day.
- Pain relievers such as Tylenol. Check with your doctor to be sure it’s safe to use specific pain relievers during pregnancy.
Hand Therapy at Muskegon Surgical Associates
The Hand Center at Muskegon Surgical Associates is home to experienced, certified professionals who can help ease the discomfort that can accompany carpal tunnel during pregnancy. For a consultation, contact us or call 231-739-1933.