Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is VERY common. If fact, it affects 3-6% of the general population, and up to 50% of those afflicted have it in both hands! So what makes it so common? Here are several reasons:
1) ANATOMY: The wrist is made up of eight small “carpal” bones that allow the wrist to bend and twist in many different positions. If you were to look at the wrist “head on,” you’d notice it is shaped like a tunnel where the eight little carpal bones make up the “roof” and the transverse carpal ligament is the “floor.” You’ll also notice nine tendons and their sheaths that pass through the carpal tunnel and attach the forearm muscles to the fingers on the palm side of the arm, blood vessels, and the median nerve. When there is less available space within the carpal tunnel (due to inflamed tendons, for example), the added pressure can compress the median nerve and result in numbness, tingling, and weakness, mostly into the second to fourth fingers.
2) JOBS: People with occupations that require fast, repetitive movements and/or a firm grip with little rest have a higher likelihood of developing CTS.
3) GENDER: Women have a greater risk of developing CTS than men due to smaller wrists and hormonal changes that may result in swelling in the wrist.
4) AGE: Individuals over age 50 have a greater risk of developing CTS, especially females.
5) GENERAL HEALTH ISSUES: There are a host of conditions that can cause and/or aggravate CTS. Some of these include rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, osteoarthritis, low thyroid function, and space-occupying issues like a ganglionic cyst inside the tunnel. Certain medications, such as birth control pills, and some forms of chemotherapy can also cause CTS. A pinched nerve in the neck or shoulder can alter median nerve function, which can exacerbate CTS symptoms.
6) TRAUMA: A fall onto an outstretched arm can sprain and/or fracture the wrist. If a fracture occurs, the onset of CTS can be very rapid, and quick realignment of the fracture is very important.
Chiropractic care offers a non-surgical solution to CTS, which includes splinting (primarily at night and when driving but usually less often during the day as we tend to “fight” against the splint), anti-inflammatory measures (ice, nutrients such as ginger, turmeric, bioflavonoids), and manual therapies—manipulation of the fingers, hand, wrist, elbow, shoulder, and neck (as indicated) and muscle release techniques to the forearm are very helpful. There are also effective exercises that patients can do at home that include joint range of motion and muscle stretching techniques.