Anyone who has suffered from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome will tell you it is not only painful, but can be really inconvenient. Let’s have a look at what it is, the symptoms, what causes it and what you can do about it.
What is the Carpal Tunnel?
The Carpal Tunnel is a narrow passage in the wrist formed by the bones of the wrist on the bottom, and the traverse carpal ligament on the top. The flexor tendons, which allow hand movement, and the median nerve, which provides feeling in the thumb, forefinger, middle finger and half the ring finger, all pass through this tunnel. If there is swelling in the tendons, this compresses the median nerve, causing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
As is often the case, symptoms can range from mild to severe. You may start out with numbness and tingling – pins and needles. You may also experience pain in the wrist and hand, particularly at night. As the condition becomes more severe you may experience weakness in the hand, difficulty moving the thumb and even referred pain in the arm and shoulder.
There are a number of potential causes for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:
Wrist fractures – a fracture in the wrist causing movement of the bone and swelling of the tendons can put pressure on the median nerve
Repetitive hand movements – often factory line workers, or people who use the same hand movement for long periods of time develop carpal tunnel as a result of swelling of the tendons
Pregnancy – the increased blood volume and fluid retention experienced during pregnancy can cause swelling, which impacts the carpal tunnel
Arthritis – particularly rheumatoid arthritis
Illness – hypothyroidism and diabetes can also cause carpal tunnel
Congenital – some people are born with a particularly narrow carpal tunnel and are therefore predisposed to this syndrome
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is not something you can ‘work through’. It requires treatment, and if left untreated permanent nerve damage can result.
If the problem is caused by repetitive hand movement, rest is essential. Splinting the wrist to hold it in a relaxed position will also help, particularly at night.
Stretching exercises will help keep the joint mobile and anti-inflammatories – such as Inflavanoid Sustained Release from Metagenics, or ibuprofen* can help reduce inflammation in the tendons, thereby reducing pressure on the nerve.
A chiropractor can help treat both the problem and the pain associated with this syndrome. A chiropractor will manipulate and mobilise the bones in the wrist to improve the space in the tunnel and ensure unrestricted nerve motion is available. Exercises to improve nerve and tendon mobilisation, fine motor skills and strength might be recommended. A range of therapies may be employed, including Ultrasound, massage and TENS (transcutaneous electrical muscle stimulation).
If non-invasive treatments don’t provide relief, surgical intervention may be necessary, as damage to the median nerve can severely impact on the use of your hand. Early treatment can help avoid this painful outcome.
If you think you have early symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, or you have been suffering for a while, call our Baulkham Hills Clinic on 9639 7337 to make an appointment with our experienced Chiropractor today.
*Always make sure you seek medical advice before taking any medications, particularly if you are pregnant, or have an underlying health condition.