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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome


Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)

CTS occurs when the median nerve becomes compressed as it passes through the carpal tunnel in the wrist. The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway made up of the hand bones and ligaments. The median nerve runs from the neck, down the arm, to the wrist. This nerve controls feeling and movement in the hand and fingers.

During pregnancy the body retains more fluid which often causes swelling. If there is build-up of swelling around the median nerve as it passes through the carpal tunnel, the resulting compression causes a change of sensation in the hand and fingers.

Symptoms include:

  • numbness and tingling in the fingers, wrists, and hands, which may worsen at night and first thing in the morning

  • throbbing sensation in the hands, wrists, and fingers

  • swollen fingers

  • trouble gripping objects

  • problems performing fine motor skills, such as buttoning a shirt

CTS is a fairly common condition during pregnancy and symptoms can range from mild to severe in one or both hands. 60% of pregnant ladies have been found to suffer with carpal tunnel. CTS usually happens in your second trimester or third trimester. If you have CTS in one pregnancy, you’re more likely to have it in later pregnancies.


Carpal tunnel usually resolves after delivery as fluid retention decreases. If this does not happen, please get in contact with a Physiotherapist.


There are a number of ways you can help to reduce the symptoms during pregnancy.

· Rest: It is advisable to avoid overusing your hand, which can aggravate your symptoms. Try to reduce any non-essential activities and rest your hand on a pillow when you can.

· Ice/heat: Alternating between heat and ice has been shown to help relieve the symptoms of CTS. Some women find it helps to put their hands in ice-cold water or place a bag of frozen peas against their wrist. Others find a warm water bottle helps, so give both a try to see which works best for you.

· Elevation: Try and keep your hand and wrist elevated when resting and overnight to help reduce swelling.

· Sleeping position: Avoid sleeping on your affected side if the condition only affects one hand. Elevating your hand on a pillow while sleeping can help to keep you more comfortable. Hanging your hand out of bed and shaking it can help ease the pain.

· Wrist support: A wrist splint, worn at night while you sleep, helps to keep your wrist and hand straight and relieves the pressure in your carpal tunnel. These are available from local pharmacies or online. If you are unsure how to fit them, your Physiotherapist will be able to help.

· Diet: If you are overweight or you gain too much weight in pregnancy you're more likely to develop CTS, so try to eat a balanced diet to keep your weight gain healthy. Aim to cut down on sugar and fat, as well as salt, which makes you more likely to retain fluid. Drink plenty of water

· Maternity bra: Get fitted for a properly supportive maternity bra. This will take the weight off your shoulders, neck and upper back, which may help to relieve pressure on the median nerve.

· Modify activity: If you use vibrating tools for work or hobbies, or play an instrument, stopping or cutting down these activities may help. Anything that causes you to frequently bend your wrist or grip hard with your hands, such as carrying heavy shopping bags or pushing loaded trolleys, can cause CTS symptoms to flare up too, so ask your partner or a friend to help you, if you can.

· Posture: ensure you are sitting and standing with good posture. Rounding your shoulders or sitting slumped can increase the tension on the median nerve.

· Physiotherapy: a physiotherapist can show you stretches and exercises that may help reduce your symptoms. They will assess your posture and check for any tightness or stiffness along the path of the median nerve that may need to be treated during your pregnancy. They may also try some soft tissue massage to reduce the swelling.

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