Pregnancy and Carpel Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). And what you can do about it.

Dr Sandhya Shivakumar

In conversation with Dr Sandhya Shivakumar
(MBBS, DGO, DNB – Obstetrics & Gynecology)

Carpel Tunnel Syndrome or CTS is a condition when pregnant women experience numbness, pain and discomfort in their fingers and wrists and sometimes in hand, during the second and third trimester of their pregnancy. The symptoms also include tingling, numbness, and weakness.

What is a Carpel Tunnel?

The Carpel Tunnel is a small space or ‘tunnel’ formed by the wrist bones (carpal bones) and a ligament (transverse carpal ligament). The median nerve which controls some of the movements of the thumb and gives feelings to the thumb, as well as several tendons pass through this tunnel.

What causes Carpel Tunnel Syndrome during pregnancy?

While in pregnancy the wrist tissues swell up, due to oedema or fluid-build up. This swelling squeezes the median nerve, causing one to experience tingling and numbness. Sometimes, one may experience weakness of the hand and may find it difficult to move fingers. CTS is found to be severe in one’s dominant hand and the thumb and middle finger.

One is likely to develop CTS, if there’s a history in the family, or if one has had problems on one’s back, neck and shoulders. Too much of weight-gain in pregnancy can also cause CTS.

How can one cope with Carpel Tunnel Syndrome which occur during pregnancy?

If the symptoms are not severe, your doctor will recommend non-surgical treatments. Unless the symptoms are acute and intolerable, doctors advice delay and postponement of surgery, until after childbirth.
Meanwhile it is recommended that :
• Taking frequent breaks from activities that cause the symptoms, changing or even avoiding such activities
• Wearing wrist-splints to keep wrists straight, especially at night time
• Exercising to stretch and strengthen the muscles in the hand and arm, while taking care to avoid the pain
• Finding ways to protect your wrist while going through daily activities
• Gentle massaging of the affected area – hands and wrists – moving up towards your underarms and then to the shoulders, neck and upper back

Can a balanced diet help ease the discomforts?

A healthy, balanced diet, which aims to cut down salt, sugar and fat can help you deal with the discomforts through diet. Drinking plenty of water, eating at least five portions of vegetables and fruits daily is recommended.
Eating foods high in vitamin B6 can help to promote a healthy nervous system. Good sources are:
• sunflower and sesame seeds
• dark green vegetables, such as broccoli
• garlic
• hazelnuts
• lean meat, such as pork and lamb
• avocados
• oily and white fish, such as salmon and cod