Carpal Tunnel is the small space or ‘tunnel’ in the wrist, formed by the wrist bones (carpal bones) and a ligament (transverse carpal ligament). The median nerve and nine tendons used to flex the thumb and fingers, pass through the carpal tunnel from the forearm into the hand.
Due to the increased fluid volume that circulates around the body during pregnancy, the structures (including the median nerve) in the carpal tunnel, can be crowded and compressed. This is called Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) and in pregnancy can affect, one in three women.
It is common for Carpal Tunnel to be felt more overnight, as fluid redistributes around the upper body after a day’s activities. Common signs and symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can include:
- Tingling, numbness or pain in the hand and fingers.
- Morning stiffness or cramping of the hands and joints.
- General weakness in the thumb and fingers.
- Burning sensation in fingers.
- Shooting pain from the wrist up along the forearm.
- Clumsiness with fine motor skills.
- Hand pain/numbness at night which disturbs sleep pattern.
Although the pain of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can be quite intense, below are some helpful remedies that can provide relief.
- Hand exercises that involve stretching, squeezing, shaking and circular motion.
(this is particularly helpful if activities during the day are repetitive e.g. computer work or fine motor skills)
- Sleeping with your hands raised up on pillows.
- Carry items with your forearms, not your hands.
- Hand splints which will help stabilise your hand and wrist in a neutral position so that it doesn’t bend and add pressure to the carpal tunnel (this is beneficial overnight).
- TENS machine. (transcutaneous electrical muscle stimulation)
- Modify activities so motor skills are trying to use more forearm and elbow instead of the wrist joint.
- Massaging the forearms and wrists may help ease pain.
- Contrast Bathing can relieve symptoms and give great relief. Set up two bowls and fill one with hot water and the other with icy cold. Bath hand/wrist in alternate bowls for 30 seconds at a time and repeat over a few minutes.
- Aromatherapy, using essential oils such as Cypress and Lemon Grass can be used to reduce swelling. Two drops of either oil added to a warm or cool cloth and applied to the wrist may help soothe and give relief.
- Eating foods high in Vitamin B6, such as sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, hazelnuts, lean meats, avocado, oily and white fish, promotes a healthy nervous system.
In addition to the remedies listed above, there are also many therapies, that can help ease the pain of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
- Depending on the severity of symptoms, Physiotherapy will focus on exercise, massage, splint assistance and ultrasound therapy.
- Yoga and Pilates can help with upper body flexibility and can improve grip and strength.
- Acupuncture, Acupressure, Osteopathy and Reflexology are useful alternative therapies to reduce symptoms and alleviate discomfort.
- Cortisone Injections into the wrist may give relief by reducing inflammation caused by CTS ( this is usually undertaken with medical advice when other therapies have not helped relieve symptoms ).
For more information on Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, or if you require a referral to please speak with Dr. Morris at your next visit.