Pregnancy concerns: Carpal tunnel syndrome

Pregnancy is a very exciting time, but even if you have anticipated the rapid growing changes in your body, suffering from hand pain and carpal tunnel syndrome probably wasn’t one of them. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), is typically associated with people whose daily routine includes repetitive hand motions, like assembly workers, not vibrant mummies-to-be.

The truth of the matter is, pregnancy-induced CTS is different from the traditional syndrome you have come to know. When you experience constant tingling, numbness and pain in your hands and fingers during your pregnancy, it might be a warning sign of CTS, especially if the intensity increases at night time.

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What is carpal tunnel syndrome

In order for you to better understand what causes hand pain and carpal tunnel syndrome, let’s talk about your anatomy. Most people have heard of CTS but don’t actually know that they have something like a carpal tunnel. This is a narrow canal formed by the wrist bones that runs across the palm side of your wrist. It is through here that nerves provide sensation to your fingers. In a nutshell, putting any kind of pressure on this canal can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.

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Thanks to increased fluid retention from pregnancy swelling, the extra pressure can irritate this nerve, which actually originates from the base of your neck. When you are lying down, the fluids that accumulated in your lower body distribute elsewhere, including your hands. This is exactly why the symptoms might be more noticeable at night.

How common is it?

The irritating effect of carpal tunnel syndrome can appear at any time, but it is a very common occurrence during the second half of your pregnancy. If you happen to be pregnant while exposed to the ergonomic strain that comes with repetitive motions, your chances are greatly increased to develop CTS.

The condition is uncomfortable, but luckily it is not serious and symptoms should ease off within a few weeks after delivery. In the meantime, there are a few recommendations and treatments to ease any discomfort and pain you may experience.

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How to treat carpal tunnel syndrome

  • Firstly, try to establish which activities tend to aggravate the problem, and avoid them as far as possible. If you are working in front of a computer, adjust your hands so that your wrists aren’t bent downward as you type.
  • At night, avoid sleeping on your hands. Instead, try to stabilise your wrists in a neutral position.
  • Shake your hands and wrists out frequently to keep the circulation going. Alternate between clasping one wrist with the other hand and gently massage in a circular motion.
  • Limit your caffeine intake, since it is a big culprit for water retention.
  • During painful bouts, place a cold compress against the painful area to reduce swelling, and keep your arms elevated above your head.
  • Acupuncture, acupressure and aromatherapy will greatly help to alleviate the symptoms.


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If the condition does not improve after the birth of your little one, consult your doctor for additional treatment. If needed, anti-inflammatory medication will be recommended. In extreme cases, corrective surgery can be suggested, but only after the birth.

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