Written by Pradeep
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a medical circumstance that is pretty common among people who are more often than not linked with work that demands repetitious hand movements, like computer programmers. It’s not uncommon for women to develop carpal tunnel syndrome during pregnancy, especially during the second half, of course, due to an entirely different cause.
The prevalence of carpal tunnel syndrome in pregnant women is higher than in the general population, at 31% to 62%. Symptoms often manifest after 30 weeks of pregnancy. Treatments like splinting, occupational therapy, and taking acetaminophen usually provide relief. The majority of women will begin feeling better within 12 months after giving birth. It may take longer for some women.
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The carpal tunnel is a small passage in the ‘palm’ side of the wrist, where the forearm meets the hand. Small bones and a strong band of connective tissue, the flexor retinaculum, which arches over the carpal bones, covering them, together form the carpal tunnel.
Several tendons, blood vessels, and nerves, including the median nerve that controls sensation and movement of the hand, pass through this tunnel.
As we already explained, nine long flexor tendons pass through the carpal tunnel. If any of these tendons swell or are damaged, the tunnel becomes narrow compressing the median nerve. This will result in pain and numbness in the palm side of the index, middle, and ring fingers.
The pain that starts at the wrist can radiate towards your upper arm. You can feel that a dull ache comes and goes during the day, often worsening at night. In severe cases, your hands might feel weak to hold or lift things, or you may find yourself getting clumsier with your hands.
During pregnancy, carpal tunnel syndrome is brought about by the collection of fluid in the tissues (edema). Some of this fluid can gather in the carpal tunnel, pressurizing and compressing the median nerve, which results in pain and numbness in your hands and fingers.
Around 60% of pregnant women are found to experience the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. Because fluid retention maximizes during the second trimester, the symptoms are also found to worsen during the same time.
Here are some facts regarding carpal syndrome during pregnancy:
Symptoms vary from person to person. The pain can be mild, moderate, dull, or severe, depending on the pressure and compression undergone by the median nerve. Carpal tunnel syndrome may affect one or both hands. The symptoms generally get worse during the night or early morning.
The main symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome in the course of pregnancy are:
Though carpal tunnel syndrome causes pain and discomfort to the mother, it does no harm to the developing baby.
Try the following tips to ease the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome:
If the symptoms are not severe, non-surgical treatments are suggested by the doctor who will watch if the symptoms are getting better. Some of the treatments suggested by the doctor involve:
Another treatment option is surgery. However, unless the pain is intolerable the doctor will hold the surgical option until delivery. Sometimes, cortisol shots are also given.
You should consult with your doctor:
The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome should resolve themselves within a few days post-delivery; however, if you feel that they are not improving, make it a point to mention it to your health care provider. Sometimes, alternate medicine therapy or surgery may become necessary to resolve the issue.