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Managing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Managing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Managing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Common In Pregnancy

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome during pregnancy is typically only a mild and temporary episode, resolving soon after giving birth. Some women however can suffer more severe symptoms which last several months. Which can go on to cause discomfort after birth when performing activates like breastfeeding or settling their baby.

Swelling in the feet and ankles during pregnancy is well documented. Less frequently reported is the swelling that can occur in the wrist and hands. This swelling in the wrist can make women more at risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome during pregnancy particularly in the later stages of your pregnancy more so than during the first trimester when swelling in this area isn’t as common.
The pressure exerted on the median nerve with-in the wrist as a result of the pregnancy related swelling in the carpal tunnel causes the symptoms. Which is also why once giving birth things usually improve rapidly when the swelling subsides.

Treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

There are a number of changes to your daily routine or self treatment approaches that can be used to successfully help manage the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.

  • Making changes to your work and recreational activities is a good starting point. Whenever possible try to avoid jobs or activities requiring repetitive hand movements as they may aggravate your symptoms, playing a musical instrument for example is something that if it is a recreational activity should be put on hold to help settle the symptoms.
  • Vibration has been shown to be a significant risk factor in developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Again where possible try avoiding activities involving vibrating tools or equipment. If this is unavoidable then take regular breaks when performing repetitive activities with your hands or using vibrating equipment at work or home.
  • Avoid sleeping on your hands and wrists. Change position during the night if you get pain, switching to a new position may relieve the pressure on the nerve.
  • If symptoms at night become significant or to avoid them becoming so, try wearing a wrist splint at night when sleeping. Wrist splints worn at night are an effective treatment approach in providing relief from carpal tunnel syndrome. If this does not help alleviate symptoms then also start wearing the wrist support during the day.
  • Changes to your keyboard, mouse and sitting position at your desk can influence the position your wrist is in, and therefore reduce the pressure in the carpal tunnel. Requesting an ergonomic assessment at work of your workstation may go a long way to helping manage the condition.
  • Hot and cold packs can also provide some relief to symptoms.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome And Medications

Obviously a physiotherapist can not prescribe medications, so it is best to talk to your GP regarding appropriate medications for the management of carpal tunnel syndrome. Common medications used include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Neurophen or Voltaren.
As well as oral medications or topical creams, corticosteroid injections into the carpal tunnel around the nerve may relieve symptoms. Always remember to check with your GP, midwife or obstetrician before taking any medications when pregnant.

Surgery For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

If pain and other symptoms persists especially if muscle wasting and weakness is present then you could be a candidate for surgical intervention to relieve the pressure on your nerve. A carpal tunnel release is the usual procedure, with a carpal tunnel release a small incision is made in your palm at the wrist so the surgeon can cut the transverse carpal ligament, which is the tissue that pushes into the median nerve with carpal tunnel syndrome.
Surgery is typically very successful, however it can depend on how long and how severe the symptoms have been prior to having the procedure.

I Think I Have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

If you suspect you have carpal tunnel syndrome then the first step is to consult your GP or physiotherapist to help confirm the diagnosis. A physiotherapist or GP can offer you further management advice over and above what you have already tried and consider if investigations or more invasive management is appropriate.
Note: There is some evidence to suggest that a deficiency in vitamin B6 can be a risk factor for carpal tunnel syndrome. Your GP can test for this and advise accordingly.

Disclaimer: Sydney Physio Clinic does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products mentioned. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific advice or assistance on Managing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome should consult his or her general practitioner, physiotherapist or otherwise appropriately skilled practitioner.

Hayden Latimer is the founder of and principle physiotherapist at Sydney Physio Clinic. Since graduating from Otago University, Dunedin, New Zealand he’s gained wide experience practicing across the globe for over 15 years and is now extremely knowledgeable in helping people reduce discomfort and restore function and mobility.

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