Carpel tunnel syndrome

The carpel tunnel lies just under the surface of the crease in the wrist. The tendons that move your thumb and fingers pass through the tunnel along with the nerve that supplies the hand, fingers and thumb. 

There are so many structures in such a small area so even when you aren’t pregnant this area is tightly packed. 

Water retention and hormones in pregnancy can cause swelling in the wrist and fingers as well as many other areas of the body. The swelling reduces the space in the tunnel and can squash the nerve slightly; causing numbness in the fingers and thumb. 

The hand may feel heavy and slightly weaker than normal. This is more likely to happen in the later stages of pregnancy, and especially overnight when the position of our hand can squash the carpal tunnel even more.

The symptoms are described as one or more of the following symptoms:

  • pain, pins and needles, numbness or burning in the thumb, index middle or ring fingers
  • tingling or numbness of your entire hand
  • weakness in the hand and forearm
  • pain that shoots from your hands up the arm as far as the shoulder
  • your symptoms are worse at night or first thing in the morning
  • you may drop objects
  • you may have a reduced grip
  • hands are swollen, hot and sweaty

Management tips to reduce the pain and swelling:

  • whenever you are lying or sitting try to elevate the wrist
  • use a cold pack 3-4 times per day for 10 minutes at a time (if the wrist is numb and you cannot feel the difference between hot and cold please do not use it)
  • ask your pharmacist about medication you could take to reduce the pain that is safe for use in pregnancy
  • avoid bending the wrist too far or for prolonged periods of time; try to keep the hand in a straight, neutral position when doing any activity that aggravates your symptoms
  • avoid repetitive movements such as typing, writing or ironing
  • avoid heavy lifting; especially if the wrist feels as if it is straining
  • avoid keeping the hands hot for long e.g. in the bath or when washing up.  Finish the activity with some cool water if necessary to avoid increasing the swelling

If you are still struggling with pain, numbness or swelling in the hand, fingers and thumb after trying the advice you may need a wrist splint.  Please contact the department on 01924 541488 to speak to a member of our team.