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Carpal tunnel syndrome may occur more frequently during pregnancy due to fluid retention in the wrist putting extra pressure on the carpal tunnel. Basically, your carpal tunnel is getting fat like the rest of you.
The carpal tunnel is a small ‘tunnel’ that runs from the bottom of your wrist to your palm, through which several tendons and a nerve (responsible for movement and sensation in your hand) pass. When the space inside the carpal tunnel is reduced, the nerve is compressed and this causes feelings of pain and pins and needles (or numbness). If you are suffering from CTS, you might experience pains shooting up your arm from your wrist and a burning sensation in your fingertips. Your hands will probably feel as though they have a life of their own. The pain tends to be worse at night, making it hard to sleep.
Because steroid injections or surgery aren’t options during pregnancy, it’s a case of finding whatever ways you can of relieving the pain, at least until after you give birth. Your GP can refer you to a physiotherapist, although in some places the waiting lists are rather longer than the time it will take for the baby to arrive.
The first course of action is usually to try wearing splints on your wrists. Some people find that these help to ease the pain by reducing movement in the wrist. You may be advised to wear them through the night.
Others swear by certain exercises or other rituals – hanging hands down the side of the bed when asleep; clenching and unclenching fists; resting hands in warm water – as well as alternative therapies such as acupuncture.
The good news is that in most cases, the symptoms disappear within a few months of birth and, in some, immediately after delivery. Post-baby you can take drastic action if necessary (such as medication or even surgery) but, for now, limit anything that causes strain on your wrists – carrying shopping, driving without power steering, peeling potatoes. You’ll soon have to be busy fiddling with nappies, so rest those wrists now, while you can.
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