Pregnancy: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

What is it?

  The carpal tunnel is a small space located at the wrist.  It is formed by wrist (carpal) bones and a ligament which creates the roof of the “tunnel”.  There are many structures that travel through this tunnel, including various tendons and most importantly, the median nerve.  Nerves are responsible for the motor (movement) and sensory (your ability to sense all types of touches; hot, cold, sharp, light, etc.) function of your body; and in this case, more specifically a portion of your hand.  The median nerve controls some movements of the thumb and supplies sensation to most of the thumb, to the index finger, middle finger and part of the ring finger.

What are the symptoms?

  Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome may include the following:  

  • Numbness, tingling or pain in the areas to which the median nerve supplies sensation
  • Weakness with gripping activities
  • Occasionally symptoms will travel from the wrist up into the forearm

Why do I have symptoms?

  Swelling is common during pregnancy and can increase the pressure on the structures in the tunnel, leading to the syndrome.  When you couple this with repetitive wrist or hand movements, such as typing or the use of vibrating equipment, you increase the likelihood of developing symptoms.  

What can I do?

  If symptoms are impacting your ability to perform your normal daily tasks or work activities you should speak with your MD and get a consultation for Physical Therapy.  There are nerve “stretches” and positional changes, activity modifications, as well as splints that can be suggested to help alleviate the symptoms.

Will it go away?

  It is likely the symptoms will resolve themselves after the pregnancy is completed due to a resolution of the increased blood and swelling that is naturally occurring during pregnancy.  However, if symptoms persist a nerve conduction study, or diagnostic ultrasound can help diagnose the severity of your carpal tunnel syndrome and direct the most appropriate course of treatment.

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