Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a problem of the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the hand. CTS occurs when the median nerve gets compressed in the carpal tunnel—a narrow tunnel at the wrist—made up of bones and soft tissues, such as nerves, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels. The compression may result in pain, weakness, and/or numbness in the hand and wrist, which radiates up into the forearm. CTS is the most common of the “entrapment neuropathies”—compression or trauma of the body’s nerves in the hands or feet.
Carpal tunnel syndrome typically starts gradually with a vague aching in your wrist that can extend to your hand or forearm. Other common carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms include:
Tingling or numbness in your fingers or hand, especially your thumb and index, middle or ring fingers, but not your little finger. This sensation often occurs while holding a steering wheel, phone or newspaper or upon awakening. Many people "shake out" their hands to try to relieve their symptoms. As the disorder progresses, the numb feeling may become constant.
Pain radiating or extending from your wrist up your arm to your shoulder or down into your palm or fingers, especially after forceful or repetitive use. This usually occurs on the palm side of your forearm.
Chiropractic Can Help With Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
When people think “chiropractic,” they often think of back and neck problems. But chiropractic has many applications beyond these typical uses, and it can improve quality of life for a broad range of health conditions, including carpal tunnel syndrome. Chiropractic can be a beneficial treatment for patients seeking noninvasive relief from this particular ailment which has become all too common in the modern world workplace. Professions where people work with a computer key board on a daily basis (data entry, secretaries), and people who work with mostly with their arms (assembly line workers, hair stylists) are just a few of today's professions that are more prone to carpal tunnel injuries, which are also known as repetitive stress injuries (RSIs).
Chiropractic is generally relatively safe; it is a noninvasive treatment, especially compared to treatment involving medications and surgery. Studies have shown improvement in symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome and other RSIs as a result of chiropractic treatment. In fact, some research has concluded that chiropractic care can be just as effective as allopathic care for RSIs.
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is the most expensive of all work-related injuries. Over his or her lifetime, a carpal tunnel patient loses about $30,000 in medical bills and time absent from work.
CTS typically occurs in adults, with women 3 times more likely to develop it than men. The dominant hand is usually affected first, and the pain is typically severe. CTS is especially common in assembly-line workers in manufacturing, sewing, finishing, cleaning, meatpacking, and similar industries. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, according to recent research, people who perform data entry at a computer (up to 7 hours a day) are not at increased risk of developing CTS in comparison to other repetitive motion jobs.
CTS should be diagnosed and treated early. A standard physical examination of the hands, arms, shoulders, and neck can help determine if your symptoms are related to daily activities or to an underlying disorder. A chiropractor can use other specific tests to try to produce the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. The most common are: Pressure-provocative Test where a cuff is placed at the front of the carpal tunnel and is inflated, followed by direct pressure on the median nerve, and a relatively new test, Carpal Compression Test where moderate pressure is applied with both thumbs directly on the carpal tunnel and underlying median nerve at the transverse carpal ligament. Laboratory tests and x-rays can reveal diabetes, arthritis, fractures, and other common causes of wrist and hand pain. Sometimes electrodiagnostic tests, such as nerveconduction velocity testing, are used to help confirm the diagnosis. With these tests, small electrodes, placed on your skin, measure the speed at which electrical impulses travel across your wrist. CTS will slow the speed of the impulses and will point your doctor of chiropractic to this diagnosis.
Chiropractic joint manipulation and mobilization of the wrist and hand, stretching and strengthening exercises, soft-tissue mobilization techniques, and even yoga can be helpful. Scientists are also investigating other therapies, such as acupuncture, that may help prevent and treat this disorder. Initial treatment for CTS usually includes such therapies as: resting the affected hand and wrist, avoiding activities that may worsen symptoms, immobilizing the wrist in a splint to avoid further damage from twisting or bending, applying cool packs to help reduce swelling from inflammation. Studies have also shown that vitamin B6 supplements may relieve CTS symptoms.