Pregnancy-Related Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Pregnancy-Related Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Pregnancy is undoubtedly a beautiful journey, but it can also bring various unexpected challenges along the way. One such challenge that many expectant mothers face is carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). While CTS is commonly associated with repetitive hand movements or underlying health conditions, it can also occur during pregnancy.

Carpal tunnel syndrome can be more than just an annoyance; it can affect your daily activities and even disrupt a good night’s sleep.

Pregnancy-Related Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and The Role Of Women’s Health Physiotherapy In Managing

Women’s health physiotherapy is a specialized branch of physiotherapy that focuses on addressing the unique needs and conditions of women, including pregnancy-related issues. It is a valuable and effective resource for treating and managing pregnancy-related carpal tunnel syndrome through various techniques.

In this blog post, we will focus on the topic of pregnancy-related carpal tunnel syndrome, exploring its causes, symptoms, treatment options and how women’s health physiotherapy can be of significant help. We’ll cover everything from early signs to helpful treatment options that could bring relief without compromising your health or your growing baby.
Move confidently as we explore strategies to ease carpal tunnel discomfort together!

What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway of bones and ligaments located at the base of your hand.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is characterized by median nerve compression as it passes through the carpal tunnel in front of the wrist.

This swelled area interferes with nerve signals, causing uncomfortable sensations of pain, numbness, and tingling sensations in the hands and fingers.

Pregnancy-related carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition during pregnancy, affecting up to 62% of pregnant individuals during pregnancy. Hormonal changes can lead to increased fluid retention and swelling throughout the body.

This fluid buildup can cause pressure on nerves, including the median nerve in the wrist. The resulting compression may give rise to symptoms similar to those experienced with traditional carpal tunnel syndrome that can cause discomfort and functional impairment.

It often happens in the late second and third trimesters when you have even more fluid in the body.

Common Causes Of Pregnancy-Related Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Common causes of pregnancy-related carpal tunnel syndrome

During pregnancy, the complex interplay of hormonal shifts and fluid retention contributes to conditions conducive to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome. This situation escalates as increased pressure on the median nerve in your wrist intensifies, potentially leading to discomfort and impaired hand function.

Hormonal changes:

Your body undergoes many changes while you’re pregnant, and your hormones work overtime. Hormones play a big part in this condition because they affect how much fluid stays in your body.

These hormonal shifts can cause your tissues to hold more water, making them swell up. This swelling might pinch the nerves in your wrists and lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. It’s like when a garden hose gets stepped on, and the water can’t flow; similarly, pressure on your nerves from swelling can make your hands feel tingly or numb.

Fluid retention:

You might notice your body holds on to more water during pregnancy. This is common and can make parts of your body swell, like your wrists. The extra fluid puts pressure on the median nerve in your wrist, and this pressure can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
Swollen tissues around nerves are one reason for the numbness or pain you feel in your hands.

Increased blood volume:

Pregnancy causes blood volume to double, increasing pressure and swelling in the blood vessels throughout your body. In tight spaces like the carpal tunnel, this increased volume can compress the median nerve, which runs to the hand.

Weight gain:

Being overweight or obese before becoming pregnant can increase the risk of CTS, although the exact relationship is unclear. As expectant mothers gain weight during pregnancy, additional stress is placed on their joints and nerves. This added weight can exacerbate symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Pregnancy-related conditions:

Conditions like gestational diabetes and hypertension can lead to fluid retention and subsequent swelling, increasing the risk of CTS. High blood sugar levels can also cause inflammation, including carpal tunnel.

Past pregnancies:

The hormone relaxin, which helps the pelvis and cervix expand during pregnancy in preparation for childbirth, may be seen in higher amounts in subsequent pregnancies. It can cause inflammation in the carpal tunnel, pressing the median nerve.

Symptoms Of Pregnancy-Related Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Symptoms of pregnancy-related carpal tunnel syndrome

Recognizing the symptoms of pregnancy-related carpal tunnel syndrome is crucial for early detection and timely treatment. Common symptoms include:

  • Pain or discomfort in the wrist, hand, or fingers
  • Numbness or tingling sensations in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of the ring finger
  • Weakness or difficulty with pain during gripping objects
  • Hand clumsiness or a tendency to drop things

It’s important to note that while CTS is common during pregnancy, in most cases, symptoms will go away after the baby is born.

Diagnosis of pregnancy-related carpal tunnel syndrome

The diagnosis of pregnancy-related CTS is primarily based on the patient’s description of symptoms and a physical examination by a healthcare provider.

Symptoms typically include numbness and tingling in the fingers, wrists, and hands, often worsening at night. Some individuals may also experience a throbbing sensation in the hands, wrists, and fingers, swollen fingers, and difficulty gripping objects or performing fine motor skills.

In some cases, the condition can cause weakness in the hand, making it difficult to perform everyday tasks such as shampooing hair, fastening buttons, or holding a toothbrush. These symptoms can range from mild to severe and can affect sleep and daily activities.

When to seek medical advice

If you’re pregnant and experiencing symptoms of CTS, it’s important to seek medical advice. While the condition is common during pregnancy and often resolves after childbirth, it can significantly impact your quality of life and ability to perform daily tasks.

You should consult with a healthcare provider if:

  • The symptoms are severe or worsening.
  • You’re having increased difficulty performing daily tasks.
  • If the grip gets weak and holding things gets harder, like when you pick up a cup or open a door
  • The symptoms persist for more than three months after childbirth
Treatment Options For Pregnancy-Related Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Treatment options for pregnancy-related carpal tunnel syndrome

While treatment for pregnancy-related carpal tunnel syndrome may vary depending on individual cases, several measures can help alleviate symptoms:

  • Rest and limiting activities: Rest and elevation are vital ways to help your hands if you have carpal tunnel syndrome during pregnancy. Avoid activities that exacerbate symptoms and take frequent rest breaks throughout the day. When sitting, lift your hands above your heart. Use pillows to prop them up.
  • Wrist splints: Wearing wrist splints during sleep can help maintain proper wrist alignment and relieve pressure on the median nerve. Immobilizing the wrist in a neutral position can limit the flexion or extension range, helping to alleviate symptoms.
  • Modifying daily activities: Changing the way you perform day-to-day tasks to reduce the bending of the wrist and pressure in the carpal tunnel can improve symptoms
  • Cold therapy: Applying cold packs or ice wrapped in a cloth to your wrists can help reduce inflammation and temporarily relieve pain.
  • Exercises and stretches: Gentle stretching exercises for your hands and fingers can improve flexibility, reduce stiffness associated with CTS, and help manage swelling in the hand and wrist.
  • Pain Management: Always consult your doctor, midwife, or pharmacist before taking medication for pain, as some may not be safe during pregnancy.
  • Physical therapy: Physical therapy can be a big help if you have carpal tunnel syndrome during your pregnancy. A physiotherapist will work with you to ease the pain and make your hands feel better. They can provide targeted exercises and techniques to improve symptoms and strengthen the affected area.
Women's Health Physiotherapy For Pregnancy-Related Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Empowering moms through women’s health physiotherapy in managing pregnancy-related carpal tunnel syndrome

Women’s health physiotherapy is a helpful and practical aid for treating and managing pregnancy-related carpal tunnel syndrome through various techniques and approaches, including:

  • Education and awareness: Women’s health physiotherapists are crucial in educating pregnant women about carpal tunnel syndrome. This includes providing information about the condition, its causes, and preventive measures that can be taken to minimize discomfort.
  • Customized exercise programs: Physiotherapists can design personalized exercise programs tailored to the specific needs of pregnant women. These exercises focus on improving wrist and hand strength, flexibility, and overall joint function. Strengthening the muscles around the wrist can alleviate pressure on the median nerve, reducing CTS symptoms. They also teach you to perform specific exercises that gently glide or stretch the median nerve through its path within the wrist to help reduce compression and relieve symptoms.
  • Manual therapy techniques: Physiotherapists use techniques to address muscle imbalances and promote better joint mobility. Gentle massage and stretching can help relieve tension and reduce swelling in the affected area.
  • Posture and ergonomics: Women’s health physiotherapists guide pregnant women in maintaining proper posture and ergonomics during daily activities. Simple adjustments in task performance, such as typing or carrying objects, can significantly decrease the strain on the wrists and mitigate carpal tunnel symptoms.
  • Splinting and support: Physiotherapists may recommend wrist splints to support and stabilize the affected area. Wearing a splint, especially at night, can help maintain a neutral wrist position, reducing pressure on the median nerve and alleviating symptoms.
  • Taping: Taping can help support the wrist and reduce pressure on the median nerve.
  • Pain management strategies: Women’s health physiotherapists collaborate with pregnant women to develop effective pain management strategies. This may include heat or cold therapy, gentle stretching, and relaxation techniques to reduce discomfort associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.
Prevention Tips For Pregnancy-Related Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Prevention tips for pregnancy-related carpal tunnel syndrome

While not all cases of pregnancy-related carpal tunnel syndrome can be prevented, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk or minimize symptoms:

  • Maintain proper posture during daily activities to reduce strain on your wrists and hands.
  • Take regular breaks from repetitive hand movements or activities that stress your wrists.
  • Wear wrist splints: Use these specially-made supports while you sleep. They keep your wrist straight, which can ease discomfort and help with healing.
  • Elevate your hands and wrists when sitting or resting. This helps reduce swelling by moving fluids away from these areas.
  • Relax your grip and lighten up on how tightly you hold onto tools like pens or kitchen utensils. A softer grip means less strain on your wrist.
  • Stay active and engage in regular exercise approved by your healthcare provider to promote circulation, overall strength and flexibility.
  • Avoid excessive salt intake to minimize fluid retention.
  • Also, drinking plenty of water keeps things moving in your system and can reduce wrist puffiness, contributing to nerve pressure.

Navigating the Challenges of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in Pregnancy with Physiotherapy

Pregnancy is an incredible journey filled with joyous moments, but it can also present unforeseen challenges, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Pregnancy-related carpal tunnel syndrome can be a challenging aspect of the maternal journey, but with the assistance of a women’s health physiotherapist, expectant mothers can find relief and support.

The holistic approach taken by physiotherapists addresses not only the symptoms but also focuses on empowering women with the knowledge and tools to manage their condition. By incorporating physiotherapy into prenatal care, we can enhance the overall well-being of pregnant women, ensuring a more comfortable and enjoyable pregnancy experience.

Cynthia Pathipati Physiotherapist

Cynthia Pathipati – Registered Physiotherapist

Cynthia Pathipati completed her bachelor’s in physiotherapy and is a qualified Registered Physiotherapist in good standing with the College of Physiotherapists of BC with more than 15 yrs of experience.  She has Post-Graduate Credentials and Certifications as well as extensive knowledge experience in treating pelvic floor, orthopedic, neurological, vestibular and pain conditions.

Similar Posts