How Does a Chiropractor Treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Effectively?
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is one of the most common repetitive stress injuries around. Most people have experienced the numbness, pain, and tingling of the hand and wrist associated with CTS at some point in their lives. Sometimes it goes away on its own. Other times it requires conservative treatment options, like chiropractic care.
Chiropractors treat carpal tunnel syndrome by accurately diagnosing it and addressing the root of the problem. This can be done in a number of safe, non-invasive ways. Chiropractic massage, stretching, ultrasound, cold therapy, and electrical treatment can all work wonders for painful carpal tunnel syndrome. Read on to find out how chiropractic treatment can help provide lifelong relief from CTS.
Carpal Tunnel Symptoms and Causes
Sometimes other issues can masquerade as carpal tunnel syndrome. To help you determine if what you’re experiencing really is CTS, here are the common causes and symptoms. CTS happens when the median nerve, which runs down through your armpit and into your hand, becomes compressed as it travels through the narrow carpal tunnel in your wrist.
- Injury to the wrist area.
- Repetitive stress or strain.
- Fluid retention (common during pregnancy).
- High blood pressure.
- Pain and numbness in the forearm, wrist, and hand.
- Tingling or a dull ache in the forearm, wrist, and hand.
- Weakness of the fingers and hand, even to the point of dropping items.
Chiropractic Care for Carpal Tunnel
The type of chiropractic care you receive depends on the severity of the symptoms and the length of time you’ve been afflicted with CTS. Most people seek chiropractic or other types of care only after they’ve tried things for themselves at home. If you haven’t already, we suggest you read our article on 12 Secrets for Getting Rid of Carpal Tunnel Pain. You may find relief simply by doing exercises and lifestyle changes by yourself.
But, if you’ve already tried the DIY route, it may be time to consider chiropractic care for carpal tunnel syndrome. There are more aggressive options offered by doctors which are typically steroid injections, anti-inflammatory drugs, and surgery. Before considering these options it’s always best to try conservative treatments first, all of which chiropractors can provide. Let’s take a look at the common chiropractic treatment options for CTS.
- Ultrasound is effective at reducing inflammation and is a safe and common treatment option for many different ailments that chiropractors treat. Although it’s usually only one step in the treatment process, it can provide much-need relief from pain and other symptoms in the hand and wrist area.
- Chiropractic Massage
- A massage performed by a chiropractor can work wonders for carpal tunnel syndrome. Your chiropractor will usually focus on the hand, wrist, forearm, and upper arm area in order to reduce inflammation and lengthen the muscles that could be causing strain. This is also fantastic for relaxation and stress relief.
- TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. Like massage, it can help relieve pain and stimulate muscle movement, strength, and healing. A TENS machine sends low-voltage electrical signals to the skin, which can help muscles and joints anywhere in the body.
- Cold Laser Therapy
- This modality involves the use of low-level lasers to relieve pain and inflammation. It doesn’t hurt and there is no heat associated with CLS, as the name suggests. It also promotes healing by causing a physiological reaction during this safe laser treatment option.
- Chiropractic Manipulation
- In some cases, the cause of the CTS may not even be in the wrist. Since the median nerve actually starts in the neck, a pinch anywhere along the path of the nerve may cause similar symptoms to CTS. For this reason, chiropractic manipulation in the neck, upper back, shoulder, and arm areas may be beneficial in treating the issues that cause CTS-like symptoms.
More Than Just Temporary Relief
The treatment options listed above are an integral part of CTS recovery. However, they are not the only part. When you see a chiropractor about carpal tunnel, taking away the pain is only one consideration. They also want to eliminate future occurrences of CTS. This is why chiropractic treatment generally includes lifestyle tips, best practices, and exercises for you to do at home. These are all about providing more than just temporary relief. They’re about finding a way to give you sustainable, long-term relief.
- Hand and Wrist Exercises
- Your chiropractor will probably give you exercises to perform at home or work throughout the day. These are generally simple movements that don’t require any special equipment and are easily done in just a few minutes at a time. Regular yoga has also been beneficial to those with CTS, as it also promotes stretching and strengthening of the hands and wrists.
- Posture and Workstation
- Believe it or not, but your posture can affect CTS. This is easy to understand once you know that the median nerve responsible for CTS begins in the neck. This is why it’s important to keep your shoulder back, spine straight and supported, and your ears in line with your shoulders.
- Your workstation is also a big part of CTS, especially if you’re at a computer most of the day. In order to help prevent CTS, your computer screen should be at eye level and your keyboard/mouse should allow your wrists and forearms to stay level with the floor. Your forearms and upper arms should also form a 90-degree angle— or at least close to it.
- Wrist Splint
- Finally, your chiropractor may recommend you wear a wrist splint— at night. Many people sleep with their wrists bent without even knowing it, which can exacerbate carpal tunnel syndrome. When you keep your wrists straight as you sleep, you’ll likely see a quick reduction in symptoms.
- CTS After Pregnancy
- Swelling and fluid retention are common during pregnancy, and both can cause CTS. Most of the time the symptoms go away on their own after the pregnancy is over. But, if you’re still having issues with CTS three or more months after the birth, talk to a chiropractor about your options. He or she may recommend several of the above options, depending on your pain, lifestyle, and other factors.
What Studies Say About Chiropractic for Carpal Tunnel
At this point, you may be wondering what proof there is that chiropractic care works for carpal tunnel. With good reason. After all, chiropractors are most known for working on the back and spine. What many people don’t realize is that they’re also trained to work on joints, ligaments, and muscles throughout the body. And there are several studies that support chiropractic’s effectiveness for CTS.
One case study showed that manual manipulation of the spine, elbow, and wrist helped increase grip strength and eliminate other CTS symptoms.
Another study showed that two different types of manual manipulation therapy were equally effective in reducing symptoms of 30 patients with CTS.
Another study outlining the conservative treatment options for CTS found that splining the wrist at night, pain relief tactics, and stretching exercises were all beneficial and should be tried prior to surgical options.
If you’re suffering from pain, numbness, tingling, or loss of strength in the hand and wrist area, chiropractic treatment can help. Many home remedies and exercises can help, but for some who suffer from chronic CTS, a doctor of chiropractic may be the best bet. For long-term relief and the tools you need to treat carpal tunnel syndrome for good, contact us today!
About the Author
Dr. Brent Wells has been a trusted chiropractor since moving his family from Oregon to Alaska back in 1998 and founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab – B.S. from Univ. of Nevada, Doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College, volunteer for Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Foundation, and member of the American Chiropractic Association. As a chiropractor his focus is on family, including his 3 children and wife of 20+ years, his clinics, and ongoing education.