Carpal tunnel syndrome is a medical condition that causes pain, numbness, and tingling in the hand and fingers and it is a result of pressure on the nerve in the wrist.
Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in Pregnancy
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve gets compressed near the wrist. When pregnant, the hormone levels trigger fluid retention, which can cause swelling. Swelling in pregnancy puts pressure on the median nerve in the wrist and causes aching and tingling symptoms.
During pregnancy, there may be less movement which means circulation to the hand and other extremities is reduced.
Risk Factor of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
People at risk of carpal tunnel syndrome are:
- Women: Women are three times more likely than men to get it. This might be because they tend to have smaller carpal tunnels
- Family: If there is a family member with small carpal tunnels
- Job: If you have a job in which you make the same motions with your arm, hand, or wrist over and over, such as an assembly line worker, sewer or knitter, baker, cashier, hairstylist, or musician, they are likely at risk of having carpal tunnel syndrome
- People with fractures or dislocate the wrist
- Pregnant women
Signs and Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Numbness and tingling- often in the index and middle fingers
- Pain in the fingers and thumbs
- Throbbing sensation in the hands, wrist, and fingers
- Swollen fingers
- Weakness of the muscles that control the thumb, which can affect grip strength
Diagnosis of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- History taking of symptoms
- Conduction of physical examination
- Imaging tests: This includes X-rays, ultrasounds, or Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Imaging studies help to exclude other causes of wrist pain, such as arthritis, and also, help to get a good picture of the bones and nerves.
- Electromyogram: this test measures the tiny electrical discharge that is produced in the muscles. The test can identify damage to the muscles controlled by the median nerve, and also rule out other conditions.
- Nerve conduction study: A small shock is passed through the median nerve to see if electrical impulses are slowed in the carpal tunnel.
Treatment of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in Pregnancy
- Wrist Splinting: a splint that holds the wrist in place while sleeping can help relieve night-time symptoms of numbness and tingling sensation.
- When resting, rest hands and wrists on a pillow or cushion. Make sure it is placed higher than the heart.
- Do not sleep on the side of the painful hand. Wearing a splint at night helps keep the wrist in a comfortable position.
- Running cold water over the wrist before bed may help reduce swelling in the wrist.
- Do gently arm and wrist exercises every day
- Adjusting position during labor and other tasks
- Avoid repetitive tasks. If you work at a computer or do any other activity that requires repetitive motions, like playing the piano or filing, take frequent hand-stretching breaks to relieve pain and tingling.
- Limit salt. Reducing sodium and salt intake can decrease swelling and water retention, both of which exacerbate carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Medications: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Ibuprofen may help to relieve pain. Corticosteroids such as cortisone may be injected into the carpal tunnel to decrease inflammation and swelling, which relieves pressure on the median nerve.
- Surgical Intervention: an incision is made in the palm of the hand over the carpal tunnel and cut through the ligament to free the nerve.
Complications of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The complication of carpal tunnel syndrome is uncommon but if carpal tunnel syndrome is left untreated, it can lead to:
- Permanent nerve damage
- Atrophy (decrease in size of a body part) and weakness of the muscles at the base of the thumb in the palm of the hand
- Lack of coordination of the affected finger.