Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

What is it? What are the symptoms? What are the treatments?

What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is an uncomfortable condition that's not unusual in pregnancy. It happens when the median nerve that travels through the tunnel of your wrist bones becomes compressed by tendons because of the pressure of retained fluid (oedema).

It's usually a temporary condition or, if it lasts throughout the rest of your pregnancy, it will usually gradually subside after the birth.

In rare cases, the problem continues after the end of pregnancy, but it's easily resolved with a small minor procedure on the palm of your hand under local anaesthetic, when the ligament compressing the median nerve is loosened to relieve the pressure. This is a permanent cure for 90% of sufferers.

What are the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel symptoms include shooting pains, pins and needles or a tingling or burning sensation in your hand, usually concentrated around your thumb, index and middle fingers and half your ring finger. You might also have an aching hand, and sometimes an aching forearm, too. Some mums-to-be find it hard to grip things with the affected hand, and sometimes the fingers and palm become numb. Symptoms are often noticeably worse at night. For most expectant mums who get CTS, the condition starts in the second or third trimesters.

What are the treatments and remedies of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

There's not much formal research into self-help measures, but you can try some of the following:

  • Shifting position if symptoms worsen at night
  • Holding your arm and hand downwards and shaking your hand vigorously from the wrist
  • Flexing your wrists and fingers regularly
  • Sitting with your hands raised when you're relaxing

If your symptoms are very troublesome, your doctor might give you a splint to wear, either just at night or during the daytime, too. Don't take any medication without discussing it with your doctor.

This guide 

The information in this Bounty A-Z of Family Health is not a substitute for an examination, diagnosis or treatment by a doctor, midwife, health visitor or any other qualified health professional. If in doubt, always speak to a doctor.

Bounty will not be held responsible or liable for any injury, loss, damage, or illness, however this occurs or appears, after using the information given on this website and in particular the A-Z of Family Health.

Further help

For health advice and information 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the NHS offers call and web services. You can also visit NHS websites for services, health information and health news at nhs.uk 

  • England – call 111 from any landline or mobile phone free of charge, or visit nhs.uk 
  • Scotland – call 111 from any landline or mobile phone free of charge, or visit nhs24.com 
  • Wales – call 0845 4647 , or visit nhsdirect.wales.nhs.uk 
  • Northern Ireland – visit hscni.net


Carpal Tunnel Syndrome