Though carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) affects 4% of the population, some individuals have a much greater risk for the condition, and several factors may need to be addressed to achieve a successful outcome.
Trauma: An acute trauma, such as a bone fracture, can lead to CTS. However, repetitive stress injuries are more commonly associated with the condition.
Anatomy: Not all wrists are equal, and some individuals, especially biological women, may have a narrower carpal tunnel, which increases the chances that the tendons passing through the region will become inflamed and compress the median nerve.
Arthritis: Osteoarthritis can cause spur formations that project into the tunnel and increase pressure on the nerve. Rheumatoid arthritis results in inflammation in the joints of the wrist and the lining around tendons, which can also place pressure on the median nerve as it passes through.
Hormones: Hormonal changes due to pregnancy, menstruation, menopause, birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, diabetes, hypothyroid, kidney disease, lymphedema, etc. can lead to swelling or inflammation in the carpal tunnel, which can place pressure on the median nerve.
Medications: Certain medications can increase the risk for CTS such as anastrozole, a drug used in breast cancer treatment; diphosphonates, a class of medications used to treat osteoporosis; oral anticoagulants; and more. (When non-musculoskeletal causes are present, care may require co-management with the patient’s medical physician.)
Work Environment: Workplace factors that contribute to CTS include a cold environment, vibrating tools, awkward neck/arm/hand positions, no breaks, prolonged computer mouse work, and more. Individuals who work jobs characterized by fast, repetitive, and forceful, grip/pinch-related activities may be up to 2.5 times more likely to develop CTS.
Other Musculoskeletal Conditions: It’s possible for the median nerve to be compressed as it passes through the neck, shoulder, elbow, and forearm, which can stimulate CTS-like symptoms in the hand and wrist, even if there is no compression in the carpal tunnel itself. It’s also common for patients to have median nerve entrapment in one of these locations in addition to compression at the carpal tunnel.
A patient’s doctor of chiropractic will need to review the patient’s health history and examine the entire course of the median nerve to identify all the contributing factors in order to achieve an optimal outcome.