So you’re wondering how do you get carpal tunnel and what it is. Well, beginning in your armpit is a large nerve called the median nerve. This nerve provides feeling in your hand and controls your thumb muscles. The nerve stretches from your armpit, down the arm and forearm, then through the narrow carpal tunnel (made of carpal bones and ligament) at the wrist, and into the hand. If the carpal tunnel becomes smaller, it puts pressure on the median nerve which then translates into pain and/or numbness in the hand known as carpal tunnel syndrome.
The three most common causes are fractures or injuries to the wrist bone, arthritic issues like rheumatoid arthritis, and of course repetitive use or strain of the wrists, hands, and fingers. Then there are a number of conditions which can lead to the inflammation of the wrist including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and excessive fluid retention which is common during pregnancy and menopause.
The most common signs of carpal tunnel are pain and numbness, or a dull aching, and some experience burning or tingling sensations (pins & needles) in their hands and fingers. Signs and symptoms vary in severity (usually getting worse in the early morning & night), but typically occur in the thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers. Thumb muscles can also weaken, making it hard to hold or grasp onto things, which can impact daily tasks.
When folks begin feeling hand pain, carpal tunnel syndrome becomes something to consider. The body can work to heal itself, but treatment is often required and may help speed recovery. If the pain doesn’t subside, gets worse, or more serious symptoms emerge (dry skin, swelling, skin color changes, atrophy at the base of the thumb, etc.) a chiropractic physician can examine the limbs and diagnose carpal tunnel. Sometimes, an EMG test is used to assess severity and determine what treatment may be the most beneficial.
According to the Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons guidelines on how to treat carpal tunnel, nonsurgical options include reducing any strain on the wrists, using wrist splints (especially during sleep), mild medications or dietary supplements to reduce inflammation, steroid injections, and addressing any underlying conditions like obesity or arthritic issues. At Better Health Chiropractic we also incorporate physical therapy for carpal tunnel, along with safe chiropractic procedures.
Yes, for some people carpal tunnel relief comes in the form of surgery, especially if there’s been a long ineffective period of nonsurgical treatment. This simple surgery is called endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery. A small incision is made on the wrist so the transverse carpal ligament can be cut to relieve pressure on the median nerve traveling under it. Don’t worry because over time the ligament heals. Recovery varies, depending on type of surgery and which hand it was performed on – dominant vs. passive.
Ideally, you’ll talk with a Better Health chiropractic physician or physical therapist who can show you and take you through a large number of specific exercises to help prevent and treat carpal tunnel. There’s a fair amount, including grip strengthening. Here, in brief, are three you can do:
It’s incredible how often we forget to stretch our wrists and hands, despite how critical they are in our lives. Once the pain and numbness of carpal tunnel sets in though, these three following stretches can really help in terms of lessening it and recovery.
For those wondering how to avoid carpal tunnel, take a look at the life of your hands and wrists. Aside from injury and trauma, look at repetitive motions/tasks and anything that strains the areas on a regular basis. Try being more gentle with repetitive tasks. Take regular breaks. Stretch. And, see an occupational therapist or talk with one of our chiropractic physicians about work-related risk factors that can be addressed.
If you’re wondering how to ease carpal tunnel pain, or you want to get rid of the numbness in thumb, index and middle fingers, in most cases it’s about giving your wrists and hands a break. Give them time to heal and repair. Look into the many home remedies, and if needed, we can help design a comprehensive treatment program involving massage, chiropractic, and physical/occupational rehabilitation.