Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is very common in pregnancy. The carpal tunnel is a very narrow passage running through your wrist to your palm. It is a relatively inelastic structure, containing bones, tendons, nerves, vessels and connective tissue. There is very little room for any structure to be at fault!
The median nerve which runs through the middle of the tunnel, is responsible for giving you feeling and movement in part of your hand. During your pregnancy, it’s normal to have mild swelling in your hands. As the pregnancy progresses, hormone changes and an increase in swelling in the surrounding tissues can cause pressure on this median nerve inside the tunnel. Nerves are very sensitive and don’t like being squashed, which results in pain, tingling, numbness and weakness in your hands and fingers.
You may notice discomfort associated with CTS at any stage of your pregnancy, although you’re most likely to feel it in the late second through to third trimester, which is when you are especially prone to swelling in your hands.
Symptoms are most likely to be mild and temporary, often disappearing within weeks or months of delivery. For some mums, it can be more severe and last for much longer, eventually requiring injection to reduce inflammation, or surgery to ‘release’ the nerve from pressure.
What are the symptoms of CTS?
- Pain, numbness, tingling, pins & needles in the thumb, index, middle or ring fingers, or over the entire hand
- Weakness in the hand and forearm, you may drop objects or feel more clumsy
- Your symptoms are worse at night or first thing in the morning
- You may have trouble performing dextrous tasks such as writing, due to reduced grip ability
- Hands are swollen, hot and sweaty
Physiotherapy for CTS:
- Assessment of your wrist, arm, shoulder and neck
- Postural and positional advice and education
- Advice on lifting, carrying, workstation, daily activities
- Massage therapy, joint mobilisations, neural glides and soft tissue work as required
- Advice on therapeutic ways to improve pain and reduce swelling
- Provision of wrist splint if necessary