July 29, 2021

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) & Pregnancy

Close up of young woman holding her wrist in pain

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a condition that affects a nerve in the wrist called the median nerve and causes numbness, weakness, and tingling in the hand and arm. It may also cause swollen fingers, a throbbing sensation in the fingers, hand, or wrist, and problems with tasks like buttoning a shirt that require fine motor skills.

While the condition can develop at any time and affects roughly 4% of adults in the general population, it’s very common to experience carpal tunnel during pregnancy. Many women — 31% to 62% — develop numbness in the hands during pregnancy, as well as CTS symptoms in other areas. 

What Causes Carpal Tunnel in Pregnancy?

Carpal tunnel symptoms develop when the median nerve, which is responsible for feeling in the fingers, is compressed. The nerve passes through a narrow passageway made of bones and ligaments on the palm side of the hand called the carpal tunnel. That’s where the pressure occurs. The anatomy of a person’s hand and wrist, and repetitive movements of the fingers, hand, and wrist may increase the risk of developing CTS. 

What causes carpal tunnel in pregnancy isn’t exactly known. However, researchers suspect that swelling produced by hormonal changes may put pressure on the median nerve, leading to discomfort and loss of function. 

Pre-Register for Your Delivery

Around your fifth month of pregnancy, your physician asks you to preregister for your hospital admission by filling out an information card. This card helps to expedite things when you come to the Labor and Delivery Unit at any time. Pre-register now to make your check-in process one step easier.

How to Relieve Carpal Tunnel Pain During Pregnancy

If you experience symptoms during pregnancy, carpal tunnel relief can often be achieved using conservative treatments. These treatments include:

  • Use a splint. You want a brace that keeps your wrist in a straight or neutral position. 
  • Apply cold therapy. Use an ice pack wrapped in a towel for 10 minutes several times daily.
  • Rest. When you experience pain or fatigue, rest your wrist if possible. 
  • Elevate the affected hand. Using pillows can help you remain comfortable. 
  • Practice yoga. Preliminary data indicates yoga can reduce pain and increase grip strength related to CTS.
  • Get physical therapy. Myofascial release therapy is a massage therapy that reduces tightness and shortness in ligaments and muscles.  
  • Take pain relievers. Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) is generally considered safe during pregnancy. However, you should always consult your physician. 

Typically, these carpal tunnel pregnancy treatments are used instead of invasive approaches like surgery.

Will Carpal Tunnel Go Away After Pregnancy?

CTS tends to resolve on its own after the baby is delivered. How long does carpal tunnel syndrome last after pregnancy? That varies depending on factors such as how quickly your fluid levels return to normal and how much rest you’re able to give your hands and wrists in a time when there are many baby-related tasks you need to manage. Often, carpal tunnel will go away in a period of weeks to months. 

Learn More About Carpal Tunnel Syndrome with Baptist Health

You can manage carpal tunnel syndrome that occurs during pregnancy. Find a mother & baby provider at Baptist Health.  

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