Do you have pain, numbness, or a “pins and needles” sensation in one or both of your hands? Do your fingers feel swollen? Do you notice weakness when gripping objects with one or both of your hands? If you answered “yes” to any one of these questions, it is possible that you may be suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome.
It is estimated that 1 to 3 persons per 1,000 per year experience carpal tunnel syndrome. This condition is the result of compression of the median nerve as it travels through the carpal tunnel of the wrist. There are several causes for carpal tunnel syndrome, including:
- Frequent repetitive motion involving fine motor skills, such as typing or manipulating small tools
- Frequent repetitive grasping movements. This can come from sports or a job that requires repetitive use of the hands to perform physical tasks
- Arthritis, whether osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis
- Hormonal changes, such as pregnancy, menopause, or thyroid problems
- Blood sugar fluctuations, as seen in diabetes
- Wrist injuries
- Misalignment of one or more of the wrist (carpal) bones
The most common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are:
- Loss of grip strength
- Pain or numbness in the hand, particularly in the thumb, index finger, and middle finger
- “Pins and needles” sensation in these fingers
- These fingers also may feel like they are swollen
- Pain or numbness that is commonly worse at night and interferes with sleep
The best way to diagnose if you have carpal tunnel syndrome is with electrodiagnostic tests, such as nerve conduction velocity (NCV) testing. This test measures how fast the affected nerve transmits signals.
There are treatment options available if you do have carpal tunnel syndrome including splints, exercises, changing your worksite, anti-inflammatory medications, and in the worst case there is surgery. However, one frequently overlooked treatment is chiropractic care. Chiropractic treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome may include adjusting the affected wrist to restore normal alignment of the carpal bones to remove pressure on the median nerve. It may also consist of gentle wrist traction or even deep tissue laser therapy.
It is important to bear in mind that there are other conditions that may mimic the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. One of these conditions is misalignment (known as subluxation) of one or more of the bones in the neck. This can put pressure on the nerves as they leave the spine, creating similar symptoms to carpal tunnel syndrome. Another condition is a bulging disc in the neck putting pressure on the nerve root. If this is the cause of your symptoms, no splint, wrist exercise, or wrist surgery will ever correct the problem. This is where chiropractic care really shines at correcting the underlying problem that is causing your condition.
Chiropractic care for these conditions is likely to consist of spinal adjustments to correct the misalignments and relieve pressure on the nerve roots. Spinal decompression may also be used to take the pressure off the discs and nerves. Postural rehabilitation exercises may be utilized to reduce abnormal postural stresses and to strengthen the muscles that support the spine. Another treatment modality that some chiropractors will use is deep tissue laser therapy to decrease pain, decrease inflammation, and accelerate the healing of the involved tissues.
If you suffer from any of the symptoms associated with carpal tunnel syndrome, it is important to determine the underlying cause, so you receive the proper treatment.