Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)

August 23rd, 2011

Over the past couple decades, people’s occupations have forced them to work primarily seated at a desk in front of a computer, typing and mousing away for hours at a time.  The human body, believe it or not, was not designed for sitting for hours at a time and the physical manifestations of these stresses are starting to become very common problems for a large portion of our nation’s workforce.  As I havediscussed in other blogs, desk jobs can be a primary factor in chronic neck, and low back pain as well as what we are going to talk about today; arm, wrist and hand pain, weakness and numbness.

The incidence of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is on the rise in America as well as other countries, effecting an estimated three out of every 10,000 workers and accounting for an average of 10 lost days of work and a lifetime associated cost of $30,000 to those affected by this condition.  No small matter.

What is it?

The symptoms of CTS (tingling, weakness, numbness of the hand) are a result of chronic compression of a particular nerve that takes a winding path from your neck past your shoulder, around your elbow, under your wrist and to the larger part of the thumb side of your hand. As the nerve gets compressed (most commonly in the ‘tunnel’ formed by the carpal bones in your wrist), information from the outside world has trouble making it to your brain, and information from your brain has trouble making it to your hand leaving you to suffer from any combination of the symptoms that I described above.

When Carpal Tunnel Isn’t Carpal Tunnel

As I mentioned earlier, the median nerve travels quite a distance and not surprisingly can get compressed in a variety of places, causing CTS symptoms, without actually getting caught up in that most notorious of places.  Neurovascular compromise (read as dysfunction of nerves and blood vessels) from conditions like thoracic outlet syndrome, as well as trigger points in the muscles of the shoulder girdle, upper arm, forearm, wrist and hand can also mimic CTS symptoms.

This fact makes thinking outside the box on this issue crucial when it comes to making a proper diagnosis and management plan.  A lofty task for any health care practitioner.

Decision Making

My approach to health care has always been to start with minimally invasive methods to work with the body and consider other more serious interventions as they become necessary.  Which is a philosophy that I encourage my friends, family and patients alike to adopt.  Funny that I became a chiropractor, right?

Bodywork including adjusting, trigger point therapy, kinesio taping and myofascial release techniques (i.e. Graston and ART) can go a long way in making CTS symptoms manageable or even eliminate them all together with few or no side effects, all at a reasonable cost to the patient. I strongly urge anyone who suffers from CTS to consider a conservative treatment approach before opting in for costly surgeries that can sometimes fail to get desired results.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, whichever route you choose to manage your carpal tunnel symptoms, the onus will fall back upon you to do recommendedstretching and strengthening exercises as well as improving your workplace ergonomics to avoid exacerbation of your condition and prevent recurrence following resolution.

As always I encourage you to discuss your options with a qualified health care provider and do your homework before considering risky management plans.  If you are in Denver and looking for a chiropractor who can help call the office today to set up an appointment or find a chiropractic practitioner in your area to ask if they can help you get your feelers back to feeling.

Be well.