Did you know that carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) can result from many conditions and not just over-use activities? There can also be a combination of causes such as a highly repetitive job plus other factors like the use of birth control pills (BCPs), low thyroid function, arthritis, and others. For example, a worker in a factory can be injured by the fast, repetitive work required by his or her job. The initial symptoms may begin as very mild tingling noticed when first waking in the morning but goes away after a short time frame. Weakness in pinch or grip strength can result in dropping objects, poor handwriting, or difficulty buttoning a shirt. By this time, most people will seek healthcare services due to the activity interference and gradual increases in symptoms associated with CTS.
In addition to what is stated above, additional activities that can be affected by the presence of CTS include holding a book or newspaper, holding a telephone, opening jars, doing household chores, carrying grocery bags, as well as sleeping at night. Common symptoms include numbness or tingling of the fingers (2nd, 3rd, and 4th), waking up at night with symptoms, frequent need to shake or flick the fingers, weakness of pinch and grip activities, and aching or pain in the wrist and/or hand.
Other conditions that may exaggerate or may even be the primary cause of CTS include the use of BCPs, pregnancy, hypothyroidism, diabetes mellitus, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus. These conditions superimposed on a patient who works on a job where fast, repetitive work, awkward positioning of the wrist, forceful grip or pinching, and the lack of rest often results in the onset or worsening of CTS.
When seeking chiropractic services for CTS, the examination process usually includes obtaining a complete health history. This can lead to a discovery that the patient has other complaints or conditions that may cause or contribute to the presence of CTS previously mentioned. The examination usually includes various tests to determine whether CTS is present or not. Other diagnostic tests such as an EMG (“nerve test”) can help determine the degree or extent of the condition.
The chiropractic treatment approach may include (but is not limited to) wrist joint manipulation, muscle-stretching exercises of the forearms, the use of a wrist brace (especially at night), the use of Vitamin B6, and/or job modifications. The chiropractor may also discuss with the primary care physician the patient’s condition, which can lead to other management strategies such as changes or modifications of the patient’s medication(s), which can result in a decrease or eliminate significant negative side effects.