Carpal Tunnel Syndrome occurs when the median nerve is compressed within the carpal tunnel as it passes through the small space across the wrist along with the forearm flexors, and into the hand.
The impingement of the median nerve within the carpal tunnel will cause pain, numbness, and/or paresthesia (change in sensation) to the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th fingers and potentially the thumb. The space for the tendons, major vessels, and median nerve is very small, (about the size of a dime), so there is very little room for error. With that being said, there are many contributing factors that can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
Some of the most common causes include:
- Swelling in the carpal tunnel
- Repetitive strain/Overuse injuries
- Poor circulation
- Hyperflexion/extension of the wrist
- Muscle imbalance
- Pregnancy due to increased fluid retention
- Compression injuries
Numbness, weakness, muscle fatigue, and pain are the most common markers of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). If you work with computers, or have a fairly repetitive job using your arms or wrists, you can be sure you will at least know of someone who is suffering from these symptoms. Untreated, long term CTS can lead to weakness, numbness, and chronic pain. CTS is the most common nerve compression injury in the hands, and it can happen to anyone who uses their hands and wrists in a repetitive nature. Occasionally, CTS symptoms can effect women while pregnant, especially in those who are retaining excess fluid in the third trimester. Those that seem to be most affected by CTS often work or play in the following industries; golfers, secretaries/administrative, carpenters, weightlifters, and butchers. It is estimated that Carpal tunnel symptoms has been documented in over 50% of the population within the industries aforementioned.
CTS can be painful and debilitating, but early carpal tunnel treatment can lead to a quicker recovery. Chiropractic manipulation can be an effective method of treatment if joint subluxation within the wrist is causing impingement. Optimum can also offer you laser pain therapy which can speed up the healing process, decrease inflammation, and reduce pain and swelling. Laser Therapy may be a viable option for those who may not be able to receive hands on therapy initially, due to pain. Massage Therapy can help to alleviate muscle imbalance, decrease compression, and mobilize fascial adhesions within the carpal tunnel, and improve overall function. While some physicians will prescribe medications or inject cortico-steroids to temporarily relieve pain and swelling, it does not treat the problem.
Some doctors might recommend surgery in extreme cases, and for some people this is necessary. Please note that the success rate of Carpal tunnel surgery can be as low as 30%, and the scar tissue generated by the surgery itself can lead to more symptoms and pain.
Regardless of the treatment, full recovery will only come about by avoiding stressful situations and changing work habits. Wearing a wrist support can help to relieve symptoms, even while sleeping. Take breaks and vary your daily activities. Keep your wrist straight when grasping items. During the day, you can stretch or change your focus momentarily. It is also important to keep good posture and wrist position when working. Collectively, all of these preventative measures will help you avoid the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.