Pregnancy Related Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – Why does it happen & what can we do to help?

Our Physiotherapy team has put together the latest advice on the treatment of pregnancy related carpal tunnel syndrome.

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

The carpal tunnel is a small space at the front of the wrist where tendons and the median nerve pass between the carpal bones and transverse carpal ligament between the arm and the hand. So, having “carpal tunnel” itself isn’t an issue, as everyone has one! Carpal Tunnel Syndrome occurs when the median nerve is compressed in this space. This can cause irritation/pain, weakness, tingling, or numbness in the areas innervated by the median nerve. 


During pregnancy, hormonal changes cause fluid retention/swelling in the arms and legs which increasing pressure on the median nerve and can cause Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. This is most common in the later stages of pregnancy when peripheral swelling is at its worst.


What can be done?

The good news is, pregnancy related Carpal Tunnel Syndrome often resolves spontaneously after delivery. Only 40% of mum’s will be symptomatic 1 month post-partum, 24%

at 3 months, 11% at 6 months, 4% at 1 year as swelling resolves (Mondelli et al, 2007). 

Symptom management during pregnancy includes:

  • Physiotherapy treatment
  • Avoiding aggravating positions such as end range wrist flexion/extension, weight bearing on hands, repetitive tasks or heavy lifting
  • Keeping your arms elevated to promote fluid return where possible
  • Wearing compression garments
  • Exercises to prevent fluid pooling like finger pumping and wrist movements
  • Fluid drainage massage
  • Night splints in some cases to keep the wrist in a neutral position overnight
  • Avoid sleeping on your most affected side
  • General swelling reduction by decreasing dietary salt intake and ceasing smoking


If you’re experiencing wrist pain during pregnancy, see one of our physiotherapist’s for treatment today