PREVENTION & TREATMENT OF CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is the most common repetitive motion injury in the work place. The carpal tunnel is created by the configuration of the small bones in our wrist, our carpals. This configuration allows for a space through which many structures pass including the tendons of our wrist flexor muscles and our median nerve. CTS refers to the compression of the median nerve in that space. This compression can be a direct result of pressure over the tunnel from a watch, a cast, or an arm rest for example; or from any insult that might cause inflammation which would take up space in the tunnel, such as: repetitive strain, vibration, repetitive fine hand movements, trauma, pregnancy, diabetes, or arthritis. The health of our nerves also depends on a balanced diet; a deficiency in B vitamins may also be a predisposing factor to CTS.
Symptoms of CTS include pins and needles over palmar surface of the thumb, index, and middle fingers with the central region of the palm of the hand and the ring and pinky fingers spared. Decreased grip strength and a decreased size in thumb muscles may also be noted. There are a handful of tests that your chiropractor can do to determine if you have CTS. If you think you are experiencing any of the symptoms of CTS, don’t wait to be checked out, the sooner you seek treatment, the faster it can be resolved!
There are many treatment options for CTS and surgery should always be a last resort! Once the cause of CTS has been identified there are several conservative options for treatment including: Active Release Therapy® over the muscles that run through the tunnel and over the tunnel itself to decrease the pressure on the median nerve, acupuncture to decrease inflammation and improve circulation, Graston can be done over the transverse carpal ligament to release tension and increase space in the carpal tunnel, elastic taping methods can be used to dampen the muscles that are being overused in repetitive strain situations, and where necessary, a splint can be worn to maintain the tunnel in an open position, particularly when sleeping. Additionally, a naturopath can help restore vitamin B levels and speed healing.
For those who are concerned about the risk of CTS here are a few tips for prevention! Ask the ergonomic specialist at your work for a workstation assessment to ensure you are not putting yourself at greater risk. When using your computer be conscious that you are not compressing your carpal tunnel with an armrest, and ensure that your wrists are in a neutral position. Perform this median nerve floss to ensure that your nerve is healthy and free from restrictions and compression:
As always, if you have any questions or concerns, feel free to call your chiropractor!
Carnes M., & Vizniak, N. (2010). Quick Reference Evidence-Based Conditions Manual (3rd Edition). Canada: Professional Health Systems Inc.
Dr. Julia Callaghan, BSc (Hons), DC, ART®,
CSCS, Contemporary Medical Acupuncture