Pregnant Woman Carpal Tunnel – Case Study

I had a pregnant client with ‘carpel tunnel syndrome’, which is is compression of the nerve endings in the wrist caused by excess fluid.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons  describes it  “Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition that causes numbness, tingling, and pain in the hand and forearm. The condition occurs when one of the major nerves to the hand — the median nerve — is squeezed or compressed as it travels through the wrist.  In most patients, carpal tunnel syndrome gets worse over time.
If untreated for too long, it can lead to permanent dysfunction of the hand, including loss of sensation in the fingers and weakness.
For this reason, it is important to diagnose and treat carpal tunnel syndrome promptly.”

Why do Pregnant women suffer from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome symptoms?

  • Most pregnant women end up with a degree of excess fluid in their system, causing varying degrees of tissue swelling
  • It mostly occurs toward the end of the pregnancy, and can affect both sets of extremities (hands and feet) and into the limbs (legs and arms)
  • Every woman is different in her responses to treatment, so it’s always interesting to determine what’s going to work best for her.
  • Often smaller women are worse afflicted by oedema, perhaps because of their smaller frame?  at least that’s been my observations of my presenting clients.
  • In this case, my client was about 5ft 3in, normally petite and used to being fit and active.
  • I saw her first for a pregnancy massage at 36 weeks, as a part of her Hypnocalmbirth package, and there were no presenting symptoms of oedema at the time.
  • Symptoms are swollen fingers extending into forearms and difficulty in grasping and picking up things. An uncomfortable state!
    Try cleaning your teeth with a toothbrush that you can’t quite grip or hold a pen, etc.


She saw me at 39.6 weeks and had developed oedema 2 weeks ago and described it as a “sudden onset”
My client saw an acupuncturist and experienced some minor relief from it, but nothing lasting.
Oedema is tricky to treat, at best, treatment generally provides some temporary relief. Reason being, the state of pregnancy is providing the ongoing environment leading to the symptom overload.
Oedema is also a contributory sign of possible pre-eclampsia, so it’s important to read a whole picture of the client.


I treated her in an elevated supine (sitting up) position with a lumbar roll to support her back and elevated her legs, to help with drainage of fluid in her legs back towards the heart.
I decided that she needed primarily sinus and lymphatic decongestant massage, as actual massage of swollen tissue hurts a lot.
It’s very tender, congested and tight. Hence the hurting when touching it over-firmly.

There is never one “right way “to treat particular conditions and those with it.
It’s always about assessing first, doing something that is likely to work, assessing it again and then adding to it or not, depending on the responses.

Sinuses and lymph tissues are wonderfully responsive to work with, so it’s easier to determine a positive response to the treatment. That indicates to me I am on the right track; and  that my client is feeling an improvement.

As she had experienced acupuncture needles before from her prior treatment, I ended the treatment with some needles, using a musculo-skeletal acupuncture approach for about 5 minutes.
At the end of her treatment, while processing her payment, I noticed she kept on clenching her fingers and I was concerned the treatment was less than effective.
She assured me quite to the contrary, she was clenching her fingers, because she could again….. So a pleasing result for my client and for me too!

Claire Cleaver is a Childbirth Educator, Counsellor and Bodyworker specialising in Pregnancy and Postnatal services.

Contact Claire on 0438 216 351

The Healing Practice
By Appointment ONLY

7 Albert St
Forest Lodge (Glebe) 2037 NSW

Updated Jan 28 2024