What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
According to the U. S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, carpal tunnel syndrome is now the most commonly reported medical problem in the work place. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is thought to be the result of excessive pressure on the median nerve as it passes into the wrist through an opening called the carpal tunnel. Eventually this pressure impairs normal nerve function and is followed by pain and numbness in the hand.
Causes of CTS
In some cases, a hand or wrist injury may have caused slight misalignment of the wrist bones. Later, awkward or repetitive movements may aggravate this injury. The major nerve controlling the thumb, index and parts of the middle, and ring finger is called the median nerve. The carpal “tunnel” is formed by the bones in the wrist. The median nerve, tendons, and blood vessels pass through this opening. If one or more of the bones forming this tunnel should misalign, inflammation, nerve pressure and painful symptoms can result.
The median nerve connects to the spinal cord through openings between several bones in the lower neck. When these spinal bones lose their normal motion or position, they can cause problems in the fingers and wrist.
Symptoms of CTS
Tingling and numbness
Hand pain or burning
Hand weakness or loss of grip
Trouble sleeping due to discomfort
Dr. Day will perform specific adjustments to help normalize structure and reduce nerve irritation. When given time, conservative, chiropractic care has produced excellent results with carpal tunnel problems – without drugs or surgery.
A brace that keeps the wrist in a neutral position (not bent back or forward too far) will reduce symptoms, if worn all the time or only during certain tasks.
Anti-inflammatory medications, ibuprofen, and aspirin are often recommended to help control swelling. Cortisone injections into the carpal tunnel can sometimes give temporary relief.
Drugs while they can offer some temporary relief, are often accompanied by side effects. And they do nothing to correct the source of the problem. If these measures fail to control the CTS symptoms, surgery is often recommeneded. Success rates with surgery are estimated at between 40% and 70% and may have to be repeated. Surgery can lead to weakening and scarring of the transverse ligament. This can further irritate the median nerve.
How Chiropractic Can Help
A chiropractic approach includes:
Adjustment (manipulation) to realign the wrist bones
Selected physical therapies
These treatments help to reduce pressure on the median nerve and permit the wrist to heal naturally. With Chiropractic treatment, many patients experience a significant reduction in symptoms without resorting to invasive procedures such as injections or surgery.
Bonebrake, A., D.C., Fernandez, J., D.C., A Treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Results of a Follow-Up Study, Journal for Manipulative Physiological Therapeutics, 16:125-139, 1993.
Cailliet, R., M.D., Hand Pain and Impairment, 3rd edition, F. A. Davis Company, 1983
Cailliet, R., M.C,. Pain; Mechanisms and Management, F.A. Davis Company, 1993
Kendall, F., McCreary, E., Muscle Testing and Function, 3rd edition, Williams and Wilkins, 1983