Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome usually start gradually, and may include:
- Numbness or Tingling (wrist, palm, thumb or index finger)
- Itching or burning
- Your thumb or index finger may feel swollen
- Symptoms may be worse with computer work
- You may want to "shake out" your hands to get the sensation back into them
As it progresses, you may have decreased strength in that hand, your grip might weaken and you may start dropping objects. In severe cases, you may not be able to tell the difference between hot and cold.What happens with carpal tunnel syndrome is the median nerve (which starts in your neck, runs down your arm into your wrist and hand to supply your thumb and index finger) gets pressed or squeezed as it runs through the wrist. The wrist bones form a tunnel, the nerve goes through the tunnel to get to your fingers, and something (usually either a thickened or inflamed ligament or tendon) puts pressure on that median nerve.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is diagnosed through the patient's history, a physical exam of the wrist, arm, shoulder and neck and certain Orthopedic tests that can bring on symptoms. If it's severe, your doctor may order a nerve conduction study.
Carpal Tunnel TreatmentCatching it early means the better chance you have of it resolving without invasive measures. The standard carpal tunnel treatment includes:
- Resting the affected wrist
- Using ice to decrease swelling
- Anti-inflammatory or osteoarthritis drugs
- Wrist splint or support
- Physical therapy
If conservative treatments don't work, then carpal tunnel release surgery is often performed (in fact, it's one of the most common surgeries performed in the U.S.).
Non-Invasive Carpal Tunnel Treatment
As I mentioned earlier, the problem with many carpal tunnel treatments is that they don't help because the original diagnosis was wrong.
If you have arthritis symptoms in the neck you may also have symptoms in the wrist that mimic carpal tunnel syndrome. To learn why, this page on osteoarthritis explained has some good information.
The median nerve can be compressed anywhere - it starts in the neck at the level of C5 so a disc issue there could cause symptoms in the wrist. As it passes through the shoulder and down the arm, the nerve runs through muscles and across tendons, and tightness there could press on it and cause pain in the wrist.
Try this - bend one of your elbows to 90 degrees and find the groove between your two elbow bones. Now, take a finger from the opposite hand and push it into that groove, putting a lot of pressure in there for about a minute. Where do you feel the tingling? That's right, your pinky. That's the ulnar nerve, but now you can see how pressure in the elbow can cause pain in the hand!
If the problem starts in your neck, then your doctor needs to figure out which structures are causing it. The spine? The muscles in the neck that the median nerve travels through? Once that's decided, then chiropractic adjusting, traction of the neck or muscle work will go a long way to getting you feeling better.
The muscles that allow your hand to rotate are called the "pronators" and they are a big culprit for carpal tunnel symptoms. Carpal tunnel treatment in this case would be to get loosen the pronators with a combination of muscle work and stretching, relieving the pressure in the forearm and the symptoms in the wrist.
If you haven't already figured this out, I think the most important thing if you think you have carpal tunnel syndrome is TO GET A CORRECT DIAGNOSIS. If your doctor simply looks at your wrist and doesn't address the arm or neck to rule out issues there, please find someone who will perform a more thorough physical exam. I've had several patients come to me AFTER carpal tunnel release surgery complaining they're still in pain.
Laser Therapy as Carpal Tunnel TreatmentLaser therapy is a highly effective treatment for carpal tunnel issues regardless of where the problem originates. Because the laser light penetrates deeply, we can decrease muscle spasms, decrease inflammation and decrease pain quickly while giving the nerves the stimulus they need to heal. Even some patients who think they need surgery have gotten better after laser therapy.
To read about real results from Lancaster chiropractor patients of Dr. Mills, follow that link.
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