Pregnancy and Carpal Tunnel

Pregnant? Numb, tingling hands?

It could be carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). 

It is unfortunately common for pregnant women to develop carpal tunnel syndrome, especially in the second or third trimesters. 

Swelling and water retention can cause fluid build-up in the soft tissues of the wrist. This compresses the median nerve, causing pressure and pain.

Typical symptoms include numbness, tingling, stiffness or throbbing in the wrists, hand and fingers. You may even have difficulty gripping objects or performing everyday tasks like opening jars or buttoning clothes.

Carpal tunnel syndrome can be very debilitating, especially when combined with other pregnancy symptoms. If you are still working, it can be exacerbated by repetitive motions like typing. 

Thankfully, it's possible to treat and manage it effectively. 

Talk to your doctor right away. Don’t delay seeking treatment. The sooner you see a doctor and start treating your symptoms, the better. Fast action could keep your symptoms from getting any worse. 

Typically, your doctor will ask you to tell them more about the symptoms that you've been experiencing. Discussing your symptoms and performing a physical examination may be enough for a diagnosis. If your doctor doesn't feel like they have enough information to diagnose you, they may recommend an x-ray or an electromyogram (EMG).

If you try to ignore your carpal tunnel syndrome, you could wind up exacerbating your condition or even causing permanent damage to your wrists. Pay attention to your body and communicate the symptoms that you're experiencing to your doctor. 


Treatment options

It's important to give your hands a break. If you work at a job that requires you to do a lot of typing, you may want to try using a dictation program. Remember to take regular breaks and stretch.

If you're experiencing swelling, cold packs or ice can be an excellent way to treat inflammation and get the relief that you need. Other options worth considering include wrist splinting and medications. Your doctor will be able to talk to you about medications that are safe to use during pregnancy. 

Making some lifestyle changes could reduce the severity of your symptoms and make your carpal tunnel syndrome more manageable. If you normally sleep on your hands, then changing your sleeping position can be a smart idea. You may want to try sleeping with a body pillow or try ‘hanging’ your hands over the side of the bed.

You may also want to try some wrist exercises. This is something that you can do even if you're on bed rest. Simply rotate your wrists and give your palms and your fingers a good stretch.

A Certified Hand Therapist can show you some helpful stretches. We always recommend the ‘six pack’ hand exercises as our go-to stretches.

While it is possible to treat carpal tunnel syndrome through surgery, that option is rarely recommended for a pregnant woman. 

If you're experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome while pregnant, you may be feeling overwhelmed. Hand pain is tough because we use our hands constantly.

It can feel alarming when your ability to use your hands is compromised, especially when you are getting ready to welcome a baby.

The good news is that carpal tunnel syndrome in pregnancy is usually temporary. It can last up to a few months following delivery but it can clear up even faster. Talk to your medical providers as soon as you experience carpal tunnel symptoms.