Carpal Tunnel: how to help.

This is one of those conditions that you certainly know you have when you get it. I’ve had it twice now: the first time was 4 months after giving birth to my boy. I would wake up in the night to feed him, pick him up, get pins and needles in both hands and then they would go numb. The end result being by the time we finished a feed I had to use my arms to put him back into his cot. It led to me having mutliple massages, which helped a little, and doing lots of research. I learnt a lot about my posture and how breastfeeding plus general stress was a huge contributing factor. A few changes to my feeding posture, extra pillows and a magic stretch really sorted me out.

Moving on to pregnancy 3 and the delight of carpal tunnel popped up again in the last few weeks. Certainly not as badly, this time general weakness in my grip strength, pain when in a hands and knees position (not ideal when teaching pilates) and pins and needles when sleeping or holding items for too long a time.

So as someone who has suffered from carpal tunnel I thought I would share my top tips on how to deal with it and how to help it.

Symptoms:

Pin and needles in your hands/fingers

Grip weakness

Numbness in the thumb, first and middle finger, that may extend to the whole hand

A dull ache in the hand/arm

How does it occur?

The median nerve runs all the way down the inside of your arm. It originates from the brachial plexus which is just above the shoulder (think halfway between the bottom of your neck and your shoulder, that bit that is often tense and you want a massage in!).

When this nerve is blocked, inflamed or has pressure on it, you can get the the above symptoms.

The carpal tunnel is a tunnel in your wrist designed to protect the median nerve. Pressure on this puts pressure on the nerve and hey ho, carpel tunnel syndrome.

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Image from: http://www.thebodyworksclinic.com/carpal-tunnel-syndrome/

Stats:

About 50% of pregnant women develop carpal tunnel, it will normally disappear all by itself.

More common in women then men.

Common in people with wrist injuries or those who do repetitive actions with the wrist.

For some people such as myself the issue can be to do with the tension and pressure on the nerve at it’s origin. So I know I carry my stress around my shoulders. Hence when teaching people pilates I so often focus on their shoulders! I can pinpoint the areas that are especially painful at these times. Those points are where the median nerve originates. So  it explains the carpal tunnel issues.

For others it is due to pressure or problems in the wrist areas. Perhaps you hold your wrists at an awkward angle for work or when bottle feeding a baby? Repetitive wrist actions or strenuous wrist activity can also be a cause especially if you have a weak wrist from an injury.

How to help:

Firstly, see the GP.  It is always good to get thee things looked at. They may offer you splints and depending on how bad things are you can even be offered surgery if it doesn’t clear up. I would suggest you try out some stretches and think about why you have the problem in the first place before jumping to surgery.

Exercises:

  1. Stretch your arm out to the side of your body and point your fingers down to the floor. Now take your ear towards your opposite shoulder. Bring the head back up and repeat.
  2. Wrist circles and making your hands into a fist, then extending the fingers into a star (think twinkle, twinkle little star).
  3. Place your arm out to the side, with fingertips on the wall. Glide your palm down so the whole palm in in contact with the wall. Work from fingers to palm a few times.
  4. Bring your right ear to your right shoulder, drop the left arm and shoulder away from you, this should stretch and release in your left side.