CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME
Pain, numbness, tingling and weakness in one or both hands are all symptoms of a condition known as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). In the wrist there is a narrow passage way or tunnel created by the bones and ligaments on the palm side of the hand. The median nerve, a nerve that supplies sensation and muscle activation to the hand passes through this tunnel. When this nerve is compressed it can cause the above symptoms.
In pregnancy this is more likely to occur than in the general population, in fact it was found that up to 62% of pregnant patients will experience CTS. It is more likely to occur after the 30th week of pregnancy as this is where there is the greatest increase of weight and fluids. During pregnancy your blood volume doubles, this can cause swelling in a number of different places including the hands and wrists. Combine that with associated soft tissue changes during pregnancy and certain repetitive actions such as typing or scrolling on your phone and the median nerve is quite likely to become compressed.
The good news is most pregnancy induced CTS will resolve by itself quite quickly after birth. But during pregnancy it can be quite debilitating there are a number of different treatment options.
Splinting: you can either buy an over the counter brace that keeps your wrist in neutral or go and get a custom made one from a hand occupational therapist. Wearing it at night may be of significant help to prevent hands balling into fists. However sometimes the compression from the splint can aggravate it so try and see how it is goes.
Ergonomic: set up is critical. Ideally one could avoid any aggravating factors as much as possible, however this is not always feasible therefore it is important to optimise your environment. If you type a lot ensure you have an optimal keyboard – low profile and external from laptop if you work off one. Position the keyboard near the end of your desk to avoid resting your wrists on the desk. If possible keep to a position where your elbows are above your wrists when typing. Avoid using wrist rests as they compress the carpal tunnel area. If you find that your mousing hand is the one most affected then try a vertical mouse. If you need to use equipment see if there are larger formats of the tools you use so that the grip component is reduced. It is important to take frequent breaks.
Cold or contrast baths: using either ice wrapped in towels applied to the wrists for periods not to exceed 15 minutes. Or try a contrast bath where the hands and wrists are submerged in cold water for 1 minute then warm water for 1 minute
Elevate: hands and wrists when swelling or symptoms are worsening
Stretching: out the muscles in your forearm can help bring blood supply and temporary relief.
Pain killers: some of the counter pain medications can be taken during pregnancy. Discuss these with your doctor or pharmacist.
We strongly advise you to seek out a health care professional such as a hand physiotherapist or occupational therapist if pain is not subsiding with above treatments.