Tingling, numbness, and pain in the hands are common during
pregnancy, especially in the last trimester. These problems are usually caused
by carpal tunnel syndrome, and they usually go away after pregnancy.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a specific group of symptoms
that can include tingling, numbness, weakness, or pain in the fingers, thumb,
hand, and occasionally in the arm. These symptoms occur when there is pressure
on the median nerve within the wrist.
carpal tunnel is a small space or "tunnel" in the wrist formed by the wrist
bones (carpal bones) and a ligament (transverse carpal ligament). The median
nerve and several tendons pass through the carpal tunnel from the forearm to
the hand. The median nerve controls some movements of the thumb, and this nerve
supplies feeling to most of the thumb and to the index finger, middle finger,
and part of the ring finger.
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when a combination of health conditions
and activities puts pressure on the median nerve as it passes through the
carpal tunnel in your wrist. Anything that decreases the amount of space in the carpal tunnel, increases the amount of tissue in the tunnel, or increases the sensitivity of the median nerve can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
The swelling that is common in pregnancy can crowd structures in the
tunnel and lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, especially when combined with
forceful or repetitive hand and finger movement or the use of vibrating
If your symptoms are not severe, expect your health professional to
recommend nonsurgical treatment to see whether symptoms improve. Nonsurgical
Changing or avoiding activities that may be
causing symptoms, and taking frequent breaks from repetitive
Wearing a wrist splint to keep your wrist straight, usually
just at night. See an illustration of a
Doing exercises to stretch and strengthen the
muscles in the hand and arm.
Learning ways to protect your joints
as you go through your daily activities.
Unless carpal tunnel symptoms become intolerable, a pregnant woman
should delay surgery until after childbirth. After delivery, symptoms often
disappear without treatment when pregnancy-related fluid buildup is
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