Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a condition where the median nerve which travels through the wrist is being compressed, causing pain and numbness in the hand. The carpal tunnel contains tendons that control finger movement. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome stems from prolonged repetitive use causing an irritation or compression of the median nerve.

Carpel tunnel syndromeThe compression present in carpal tunnel syndrome (or ‘pinched nerve’) does not always occur at the wrist. A pair of nerve roots emerges from the spinal cord at each vertebral level of the spine and the median nerve is formed by several nerve roots emerging from the lower part of the neck. From there, the median nerve travels down the arm to the wrist and hand and can become entrapped anywhere along its path.

There are many identifiable symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. These include painful tingling in the hands, weakness in fingers, feelings of swelling in fingers with no apparent swelling, and shooting pain through the wrist and hand. This pain is most often at its worst in the evening, and particularly affects the thumb and first two fingers.

Carpal Tunnel can originate from a number of activities, the most common of which being repetitive keyboard typing. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome develops most commonly in people aged 40-60, particularly women. Certain lifestyle factors can also influence Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, such as cigarette smoking and high caffeine and alcohol use.

It is important to remember that not all wrist pain is attributable to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome such as shooting pain, weakness and tingling may also be the result of an irritation of the nerves in the neck, nerve entrapment in the elbow or a previous autoimmune injury. Thorough examination by a chiropractor can determine whether your wrist pain is due to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or another musculoskeletal condition.

There are many helpful Carpal Tunnel Syndrome remedies. While some medical professionals suggest surgery to remove the pressure on the nerves, more conservative and less invasive and painful options are available. Treatment by the Chiropractors at Back to Basics may involve joint manipulation or mobilisation, massage, stretching, trigger point therapy, splinting, rehabilitative exercises, ice and heat.

Splinting of the wrists is common for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, to stabilise the wrist and prevent further damage from excessive movement. While this can provide relief to symptoms, it can occasionally result in the wrist muscles becoming weak and lazy. A chiropractor can monitor the progress of any splinting, and recommend alternative treatments if splinting is not the preferred option. Behaviour modification may be necessary, and advice can be given by your chiropractor as to how to implement changes in your work and daily life. Paying attention to proper ergonomic principles and posture can also help overcome Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Current evidence1 shows significant short-term benefit from oral steroids, splinting, ultrasound, yoga and carpal bone mobilisation.

1. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2003;(1):CD003219.Non-surgical treatment (other than steroid injection) for carpal tunnel syndrome. O’Connor D, Marshall S, Massy-Westropp N.


What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome refers to when the median nerve which travels through the wrist becomes compressed, causing hand pain and numbness. It occurs due to prolonged repetitive use of the hand/wrist, causing irritation or compression of the nerve.

What are the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome?

Common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include numbness, tingling, burning, or a weak sensation from your thumb to your ring finger. The pain being worse at night, and hindering comfortable sleep, is also common.

Is carpal tunnel syndrome related to computer use / typing?

Repetitive hand and wrist motions contribute to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome. Thus, constant typing and computer use can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. It helps to use proper computer ergonomic techniques, and take regular breaks between extended computer use periods, to reduce the risk of a compressed carpal tunnel.

Can carpal tunnel syndrome worsen during pregnancy?

The hormones associated with pregnancy can cause general fluid retention, softening the ligaments surrounding the carpal tunnel. This causes the median nerve to become compressed, leading to pins and needles and stiffness.

Are there alternative treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome besides surgery?

Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome can include splinting and activity modification to minimise pressure on the carpal tunnel. Chiropractic treatment in the form of joint manipulation or mobilisation, massage, stretching, trigger point therapy, rehabilitative exercises, and ice and heat can also significantly mitigate carpal tunnel syndrome. If these conservative / non-invasive treatments are ineffective, surgery may be necessary to alleviate median nerve pressure. It is important you consult a medical professional regarding the most appropriate treatment option for your condition.

Can carpal tunnel syndrome be prevented?

Taking frequent breaks between repetitive tasks, maintaining good posture, and practicing wrist exercises and stretches, can prevent compression of the nerve, and minimise risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.

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