Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) occurs when the median nerve in the wrist becomes irritated. The median nerve controls sensation to the thumb and first 3 fingers as well as controls some of the small muscles in the hand. The carpal tunnel is an area in the wrist where tendons and the median nerve pass from your forearm to your hand. These tendons can become inflamed or thickened thus irritating the median nerve.
Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome usually start off gradually as a frequent burning or tingling sensation felt in the thumb and the fingers (minus the little finger). Pain is more apparent at night since most people sleep with flexed wrists causing a com-pression of the median nerve. Some people claim their fingers feel swollen and useless although no swelling is apparent. A per-son with CTS may feel the need to “shake out” the hand or wrist. As the CTS progresses, the person will start to feel the tingling sensation during the day, and will start to have trouble making a fist or grasping small objects. There may also be a loss of strength in the muscles at the base of the thumb.
Who is Most at Risk For Developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Women are 3x more likely to develop CTS and it occurs most often between 40 and 60 years of`age. Repetitive motions involving the wrist and hand are a common cause of CTS. This is because the tendons and nerves get inflamed due to the overuse of the wrist. It is most common in people who are required to do a lot of pinching or gripping or have their wrist bent for long periods of time. Common occupations in which people are more prone to developing CTS are computer workers, assembly line workers, musicians, grocery cashiers, and mechanics. Hobbies such as gardening, needlework and kayaking may also increase the risk of developing CTS.
CTS can also be associated with a fracture of the wrist that compresses on the carpal tunnel as well as various other health problems such as obesity, diabetes, thyroid disease and Lyme disease. CTS is often seen in the last few months of pregnancy due to the swelling that may develop. Alcohol, tobacco, and high caffeine intake also put you at an increase risk of developingCTS.
How is CTS Treated?
CTS is commonly treated by chiropractors by manually adjusting the bones of the wrist and forearm. This helps to take away some of the pressure and inflammation that may be surround-ing the median nerve. Ultrasound therapy and ice are other commonly used modality. This also helps to decrease inflammation. Myofascial release to the muscles of the forearms and wrists may be helpful if there is any muscle involvement. Nutritionally an omega–3 supplement or a B complex supplement may be advised. Studies have shown B vitamins and omega–3s in people with CTS have been helpful in reducing inflammation. A wrist splint may also be recommend in order to immobilize the wrist to help the area heal. Stretching of the wrist and fingers is help-ful as well as taking frequent breaks if doing a repetitive activity. Your medical doctor may want to prescribe you anti–inflammatory drugs. I would recommend conservative options before trying medication, as they can have harmful side effects. In rare and severe cases surgery may be required.
It is important to find the cause of the carpal tunnel syndrome. If it is coming from some activity that you are performing,you may need to modify that activity. If you keep doing the same motion over and over your wrist will never have time to heal. Ask your chiropractor for some suggestions on how you can improve your environment and make it more carpal tunnel