Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a condition that arises when the median nerve is compressed as it passes through the narrow, rigid carpal tunnel, resulting in numbness, tingling, pain, and/or weakness in the hand and wrist.
The underlying cause of CTS can be obvious and easy to trace, such as an injury to the wrist, or the cause of the condition can be the result of cumulative trauma from months or years or repetitive strain caused by working with vibrating tools or poor ergonomics. Another cause can be the result of swelling/inflammation from conditions like arthritis, thyroid disease, pregnancy, or diabetes. In many patients, there are several factors at play, which all must be treated in order to obtain a successful outcome.
Women are three times more likely to develop CTS than men, mostly due to differences in the shape of the wrist. This disorder usually occurs in adults (especially over the age of 50), but it can occur at younger ages, such as college music majors who practice their instrument for several hours each day with little time allotted to rest the tissues in the wrist.
After a thorough examination to identify all contributing factors for a patient’s CTS-related symptoms, a doctor of chiropractic may employ the following conservative treatments: a wrist splint to maintain proper posture at night when sleeping; anti-inflammatory measures such as ice; anti-inflammatory nutritional products such as ginger, turmeric, bioflavonoids, and others; work and/or leisure activity modifications that reduce strain on the wrist; manipulation of the small joints of the wrist as well as to joints proximal to the wrist including the elbow, shoulder, and cervical spine; muscle release techniques to the upper extremity, especially the forearm and hand; stretching exercises; and the use of some physio-therapeutic modalities can also facilitate in reducing inflammation.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, CTS usually responds well to conservative treatment, especially early in the course of the condition. However, in some cases, surgical intervention may be necessary.