Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in Pregnancy
According to the NHS “, 60% of pregnant women may experience symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome” but do you what is it and what can you do about it?
According to the Baby Centre UK, Carpal tunnel syndrome “is common in pregnancy. It happens when there is a build-up of fluid in the tissues in your wrist. This swelling squeezes a nerve, called the median nerve, that runs down to your hand and fingers, causing tingling and numbness.” (2)
So, if you are pregnant and are experiencing tingling and/or swelling in your fingers and hands, numbness or discomfort or are finding that your grip is weaker and it is more difficult to move your fingers you need to be speaking to your health professional and seeking advice.
So I have Carpal Tunnel and want to exercise, what can I do?
Providing you have been cleared to exercise during your pregnancy then there are plenty of adaptations that can be made to help you continue to be active without making things worse, causing more harm or discomfort.
As there are degrees as to the severity of symptoms everyone’s situation will be different and therefore seeking guidance specifically for your needs is essential. However here is a selection of things that you can do to help when you are exercising!
Top Tips to keeping active with carpal tunnel syndrome
Wrist Braces – these can be worn during routine activities of daily living or during physical activities to help “relieve pressure on the nerve” (1) by keeping your wrists straight.
I would always recommend speaking to your GP first as they can advise you prior to these being bought or prescribed. They are available over the counter but the cost of correct advice is priceless!
Focus on your lower body – It may sound obvious but if you are experiencing a lot of pain and restricted movements in your hands, avoid the moves that increase strain on your wrists such as holding dumbbells or floor work demanding weight bearing on your hands.
You may want to consider focussing your training on your lower body such as your glutes as well as core strength and your pelvic floor – after all these muscle groups are super beneficial to train in pregnancy to help prepare for labour and delivery!
If you feel able to lightly train your upper body, again make sure you are medically cleared to do so, then “maintain the wrist in a neutral position to alleviate stress” (3). This may be done by wearing a wrist brace or splint if this has been prescribed.
Amanda Sinclair writes in Strength and Conditioning journal that:
“the most practical way to start or continue resistance training for the upper body may be through the use of resistance bands or tubing” rather than free weights or gym machines as “this reduces the need for gripping or placing a load in the palm of the hand.” (3)
In practical terms, this may mean using a resistance band held to your forearm with tubing so that although the upper body can be worked, the load is not placed on wrists and wrist joints.
Remember that keeping active in pregnancy is a great way to help manage common pregnancy complaints and these should not be a barrier to you continuing to stay active however only begin or continue to exercise if you have been cleared medically to do so and if you suspect you have carpal tunnel syndrome, please consult with your GP before continuing to exercise.