Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Chiropractic Treatments
If you’re not familiar with carpal tunnel syndrome, it is a condition delineated by numbness, tingling, or a weak sensation in one’s hand. It is usually the byproduct of repetitive motion and certain health conditions like obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism, diabetes, and pregnancy, for example. Carpal tunnel syndrome is also characterized by pressure on their median nerve, which is a nerve that extends the length of the arm and travels through the carpal tunnel (a narrow passage in the wrist) until it reaches the hand, marking the end of its journey. In addition to the feelings of numbness, weakness, and tingling, carpal tunnel also makes it very difficult to grip certain items like pens, buttons, and other small items. It is important to note that gripping a steering wheel while driving can also be very difficult. In this article, we will take a closer look at the etiology of this condition as well as available treatments for those who have it.
WHO IS MOST LIKELY TO DEVELOP CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME?
Statistically speaking, carpal tunnel syndrome is more common among women. In fact, studies show that women are three times more likely to develop the debilitating condition than men as they tend to have narrower carpal tunnel channels. It is worth noting that some women develop carpal tunnel syndrome once they become pregnant; however, the symptoms will usually dissipate after they have given birth. Gender differences aside, those who have the following professions are especially susceptible to developing carpal tunnel syndrome:
- Construction workers
- Assembly line workers
- Office workers
- Business Executives
In essence, any job or activity requiring the repetitive use of your wrist, fingers, or hands, especially over a longer period of time, increases the chances of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
HOW IS CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME DIAGNOSED?
When a patient complains of numbness, tingling, or a weak sensation in their hand, physicians will often administer a “tap” test whereby they tap the palm side of a patient’s wrist or have them fully flex their wrist with their arms extended. While these tests may seem unorthodox, they are highly effective. In addition to a “tap” test and having patients flex their wrists, physicians may also order an EMG-NCV, which is a test used to assess how well the nerves across the carpal tunnel are functioning.
TRADITIONAL CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME TREATMENTS
When it comes to treating carpal tunnel syndrome, there is no such thing as a “one size fits all” approach as the severity of the condition can vary from person to person. That said, some of the more common treatments include
Immobilization – This process generally entails using a splint during the day to prevent the wrist from moving, which minimizes pressure on the median nerve. Some patients may also be instructed to wear them at night as a means of resolving the numbing and tingling sensations typical of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Lifestyle changes – For symptoms that intensify with repetitive motion, taking frequent breaks or limiting certain activities can significantly help improve symptoms. Similar relief can also be achieved through stretching and strengthening exercises as well, as directed by a professional Chiropractor.
Medication – If carpal tunnel syndrome is diagnosed early, most physicians will recommend a nonsurgical approach as a means of managing pain and other symptoms typical of the condition. Some of the most commonly used medications for treating carpal tunnel syndrome include NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), namely Advil and Motrin. However, in extreme cases, physicians will prescribe corticosteroids, which are administered via injection. These medications are designed to reduce swelling and inflammation, which help to alleviate pressure on the median nerve.
NEW CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME TREATMENTS
While traditional treatments are effective, there are other options worth considering. For example, cold-laser light therapy, which is a low-intensity laser therapy that promotes healing while using low levels of light, is quickly becoming a preferred treatment for many individuals struggling with numbness, pain, tingling, and other symptoms associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.
In addition to cold-laser light therapy, ART (Active Release Technique) is another popular treatment. This form of therapy, which is carried out by a certified Chiropractor, is very much hands-on in that practitioner will use their hands to break up adhesions that form between the nerves, muscles, blood vessels, and connective tissue that act as the catalyst for most carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms.
The Graston Technique is another option for individuals seeking relief from carpal tunnel syndrome. Similar to ART, the Graston Technique is a hands-on form of manual therapy whereby practitioners purposely introduce inflicts small amounts of microtrauma into are where excessive scar or soft tissue fibrosis has occurred. The process then triggers an inflammatory response that reportedly simulates healing while minimizing symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
WHEN SHOULD PATIENT CONSIDER SURGERY?
When it comes to surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome, it is generally a last resort, meaning all other treatment options have been exhausted. That said, there are two surgical procedures use to relieve pressure on the median nerve, endoscopic and open surgery. To help put all of this into context, let’s take a closer look at what each procedure entails:
Endoscopic surgery – The surgical procedure involves using a telescope-like device, which is fitted with a small camera that enables the surgeon to see inside the carpal tunnel. The surgeon will then make two small incisions in the patient’s hand before cutting the ligament that is pressing against the median nerve.
Open surgery – This surgical procedure entails making an incision in the palm of the patient’s hand and over the carpal tunnel, which creates an access point for the surgeon to cut through the ligament to release the pressure on the median nerve.
HOW TO AVOID DEVELOPING CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME
When it comes to carpal tunnel syndrome, there are things that you can do to reduce your chances of developing the condition including:
- Avoid repeatedly extending your wrist.
- Keep your wrist as straight as possible while typing or performing similar activities.
- Use wrist splints or other immobilization devices that can help keep your wrist in a neutral position.
- Office worker should ensure that they have proper ergonomics as their work station.
And remember, discuss any pain or discomfort you’re experiencing with your chiropractor.