We have all woken up with tingling or numbness in our hands from time to time. It feels strange, but shakes out quickly and that’s usually the end of it.
If this becomes a regular occurrence, particularly when you are pregnant, you may be diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). CTS is a trapped nerve. The symptoms include pain or aching in your fingers, hand, wrist, and even up the arm to your shoulder. Other typical symptoms may include tingling, numbness, and a burning sensation in the hands and fingers.
The carpal tunnel is a narrow, inflexible bony canal formed by the wrist bones on three sides and a ligament on the other. The swelling and fluid retention that's so common during pregnancy can increase the pressure in this space, compressing the median nerve that runs through it. The median nerve gives sensation to the thumb, index, middle, and half of the ring finger, and is responsible for movement of a muscle at the base of your thumb. Pressure on this nerve causes the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Tips to relieve the pain or tingling:
Avoid forceful, repetitive hand movements
Adjust the height of your work chair so your wrists aren't bent as you type
Take regular breaks to stretch your hands and wrists
Change your sleeping position if necessary to avoid sleeping on your hands or with your wrists bent
Please contact your Chartered Physiotherapist if you are pregnant and have any of these symptoms. Maintaining a neutral position of the wrist should reduce your symptoms considerably, and we can advise you on how to safely minimise the discomfort using wrist splints, and advise you on reducing pressure on the nerve when you’re working, in bed and even during your pregnancy exercise class.
Note that CTS is more likely to begin or worsen from the second half of pregnancy, when we tend to retain more fluid. The symptoms usually go away gradually after the birth, as the swelling from pregnancy subsides.
If you have pain or any concerns while pregnant, please report them to your Chartered Physiotherapist, GP or obstetrician ASAP. Do not suffer in silence. If in doubt, get it checked out. Not all aches and pains are part of being pregnant and it is important to resolve any issues that are affecting your ability to go about your daily business. Don’t leave it until your baby is born, you’ll have enough to do then!