Carpal Tunnel, Paresthesia and Pregnancy

Carpal Tunnel, Paresthesia and Pregnancy
The news of a pregnancy generally a time for celebration. The new life is anticipated over the next 9 months as the parents prepare their lives and their homes for the new arrival.

For the woman, there are many physical changes that occur in her body. Some of those seem to pre-dispose her to developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

At the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia a study of articles across several journal titles found that Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) was identified through neurophysiological testing in from 7 – 43% of the pregnant women tested.

These percentages are higher than in the average population samples – but you can see there was a wide variation among the results. The article suggests that unreported differences in testing technique were probably the main cause of variation.


The main symptom reported was paresthesia. Paresthesis is described as a sensation of tingling, prickling, or numbness – a change in the background noise felt by the body. In general, it’s same feeling you get when your foot or leg “falls asleep”.

In many cases, the symptoms persisted for more than a year.

In CTS, paresthesia occurs along the distribution of the median nerve. It is generally strongest in the middle and index finger, with possible spread to the palm side of the thumb and the inside of the ring finger. It is generally felt in the palm although the fingertip sensation may also occur in the fingernail area.

This altered sensation can affect the ability to do small finger movements accurately, to maintain grip, and in some cases to feel things that are hidden from sight (such as in a pocket).

People who have paresthesia often feel clumsy, and tend to drop objects they hold. If you can’t feel something, it’s easy to forget you have it in your hand and let the fingers relax unless you’re looking at it.

Other things that may be difficult such as using buttons, buckling belts, tying shoes, holding spoons while cooking and handling money. Ah those activities of daily life!

One interesting thing about these symptoms is that they are often get worse while you sleep, and may wake you up or be very bad when you first get up. There is a theory that this is related to sleep positions, but this has not been proven.

If you have symptoms of paresthesia, you should see your doctor, orthopedist, neurologist or sports medicine doctor. They can prescribe Occupational Therapy.

Occupational Therapy

If needed, the Occupational Therapist can choose a splint style to provide the restrictions you need while limiting you as little as possible in the types of things you need to do during the day and individually fit it to you. While you have altered sensation, you may not notice an ill fitting splint damaging your skin.

In addition, using their training and experience the Occupational Therapist can make some suggestions for tools that may help you with your daily life. I’ve put links to a few good ADL aids below.
For the laces, get one size larger than you think you need.
The jar opener is quite good. I find it requires less strength to anchor the opener, then turn the jar to open.

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