That’s a strange question….well, maybe not as crazy as it sounds! Knowing what isn’t carpal tunnel syndrome, or CTS, may help you avoid an unnecessary surgery for a condition that looks very similar to CTS. Because CTS is such a common problem, it’s not uncommon for other conditions to be mistakenly called CTS. Because of that, subsequent surgical treatment will fail. So, what are similar conditions you should know about? You’ll be surprised at the possibilities: Pronator tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome, radial tunnel syndrome, thoracic outlet syndrome, cervical radiculopathy, peripheral neuropathy, De Quervain’s Disease, fracture/trauma, degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis), ganglion cysts, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), serum lupus erythymatosus (SLE), scleroderma, syringomyelia, multiple sclerosis, pregnancy, obesity, hypothyroid, gout, diabetes mellitus, Paget’s Disease, acromegaly, mucopolysaccharidoses, eosinophilic fasciitis, hyperlipidemia…
Obviously, you get the picture. There are MANY conditions that can either contribute and/or “cause” CTS. So, let’s discuss how your doctor can determine what the condition is that may be causing your symptoms. CTS is “likely” if none of the above conditions causes or contributes to these symptoms of CTS:
- Numbness/tingling in the distribution of the median nerve in the hand only (not forearm) affecting the 2nd and 3rd (sometimes part of the 4th) fingers.
- The need to shake and “flick” your fingers repeatedly during certain activities such as writing, sleeping, typing, driving, reading/holding a book / newspaper.
- Waking up at night due to numbness.
- Difficulty buttoning a shirt, picking up fine things, unscrewing a jar, riding a bike, and more.
It may be necessary and appropriate to have some blood tests performed to help “rule out” (that means, “…get rid of..”) some of the above long list of conditions. Some of these blood tests include (but are not limited to): a sedimentation rate (ESR), rheumatoid factor (RA), ANA antibody test (for SLE), uric acid (for gout), glucose (for diabetes mellitus), thyroid profile (for hypothyroid), lipid profile, and even a Lyme’s disease test to rule out the possibility of that! If any of these blood test return “positive,” get those conditions treated FIRST before consenting to CTS surgery so you can avoid having a poor / unsatisfying result. Remember, you can always have surgery later, but you can’t “undo” the surgery after the fact (if it doesn’t help).
Therefore, why not consider a non-surgical treatment FIRST and if that fails AND blood tests prove none of the above conditions are present, THEN you can feel more comfortable that no underlying condition is present that is causing or adding to CTS. Some of the common non-surgical treatments you can expect from our chiropractic approach for CTS include wrist manipulation / mobilization, active release technique (ART) applied to the flexor forearm muscles, night wrist splint use, low level laser therapy, activity modifications, and ergonomic or work station modifications.