Carpal tunnel can be an extremely painful and uncomfortable condition that can affect anyone. However, during pregnancy the chances of suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome are greatly increased, particularly in the latter stages of pregnancy. The reason for the greater incidence of carpal tunnel syndrome during pregnancy is that there is greater retention of fluid (due to varying hormones during pregnancy) and that relaxin can soften the ligaments that form part of the carpal tunnel.
Carpal tunnel syndrome will normally manifest in the form of pain, numbness and/or tingling in the outside three fingers of either hand. In more extreme cases, the compression on the nerve through the carpal tunnel can lead to the forearm feeling numb. The fingers and the hands will feel weak and have poor grip strength and pain may radiate up the arm as far as the shoulder.
For pregnancy induced carpal tunnel syndrome the symptoms will be worse either during the night or first thing in the morning due to greater fluid retention as the arm is relatively inactive.
There are a number of steps to you can take to reduce the impact of the condition. These include:
- Avoiding any task or action that causes pain
- Elevate the affected arm to attempt to reduce the amount of oedema and swelling
- Be aware of your posture. There is a tendency amongst pregnant women (+ office workers + people who drive a lot etc) to have their neck protracted ie their chin juts out. Even a little can add compression to the lower cervical vertertae so try to keep your chin back in a more neutral position.
- Try to keep your wrist in as neutral a position as possible (some physiotherapists recommend the use of splints to maintain a neutral wrist while you sleep. If you are suffering from carpal tunnel from breast feeding then remember to bring the baby to the breast rather than move the breast to the baby and again be aware of your wrist position.
- Some professionals may suggest modifying your diet (and/or lifestyle) to reduce your body’s general propensity for swelling
Massage for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome During Pregnancy
An effective massage for carpal tunnel syndrome is primarily aimed at reducing the amount of swelling in the arm through lymphatic drainage techniques and, when performed by a therapist who has a good understanding of the condition, it can be a highly effective treatment.
Routine for Carpal Tunnel Pregnancy Massage
This routine can be considered as being relevant for during pregnancy and also post-partum when the new mum can have wrist problems when breast feeding.
Start at neck with little or no lubrication and work very and gently. The movement of lymph at the level of the skin is the objective for the routine. Always proximal to distal with the order of the strokes but work each individual stroke in a distal to proximal direction. Stretch the skin and work down the arm all the way down to the hand. Again need to reiterate that the pressure should be very light as working deeply can be ineffective.
Repeat this series of strokes a few times.
Compressive tissue release – keep wrists neutral and stroke down the forearm (both top and botton of the forearm) using thumb and fingers whilst applying traction to the wrist. This stroke can free up the nerve sheaves through the carpal tunnel.
If you feel that you need to stretch the fascia of the palm make sure that you keep the wrist in neutral. Work the joints of adjacent fingers in opposite directions.