What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Many people are under the impression that Carpal Tunnel is a repetitive stress injury, which could be solved just by using your hands in a different way. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. Although modern life requires significantly more use of keyboards and phones, which can increase the risk of hand issues, Carpal Tunnel needs to be viewed from a wider perspective.

Essentially Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) occurs because of pressure on the median nerve, which runs along the hand and forearm. At the wrist area is a passage which the median nerve runs through, known as the carpal tunnel. You can think of this as a tight tunnel, and if there is inflammation or pressure in this area, it can irritate the median nerve, causing pain, numbness and other sensations associated with nerve issues.

What causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is quite common, affecting potentially 5% of the entire US population, with women three times more likely than men to experience this disorder. Researchers have not been able to identify a specific cause of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, however, there are risk factors. Pregnancy, for instance, and its hormonal changes can trigger Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Conditions which cause inflammation such as rheumatoid arthritis are also risk factors as well as past injuries to the wrist, such as fractures.

What are the most common symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Because the median nerve controls many areas of the hand, including the palm, part of the thumb, and three of the fingers (the pinky is controlled by other nerves), irritation to this nerve can lead to a host of negative sensations and limit motor functions.
Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome may be experienced in the fingers, palm, wrist and extend up through the forearm and elbow.

These symptoms include:

  • Tingling
  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Numbness, which is typically experienced in the thumb, index, and middle fingers
  • Loss of muscle strength in the fingers, hand, or wrist
  • A chronic, aching pain in the forearm between the elbow and wrist

Because we can compress our wrists while we sleep, many of these symptoms are more pronounced upon waking.

How can Carpal Tunnel Syndrome impact your daily life?

The pain, tingling sensations, numbness, and weakness of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can impact many parts of daily life. If you think of all of the ways we use our arms and hands each day, you can begin to appreciate how debilitating and impactful CTS can be. From gripping a pen to opening a food jar, brushing a child’s hair or typing on a keyboard, there are so many ways CTS can get in the way of an average day.

Especially for professions which demand repetitive motions, strong grips, or precise hand movements. CTS may not only affect your work performance, but severely cut back on your career and capabilities. Add to this the fact that pain and numbness can worsen at night, leading to disrupted sleep and daytime fatigue, and CTS can put someone’s employment at risk.

What are common treatments for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Common treatments for mild to moderate cases of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome include over-the-counter NSAIDs, icing, and lifestyle changes such as frequent breaks and avoiding certain pain-causing activities. As the condition progresses and becomes worse, corticosteroid injections and splinting may be suggested by orthopedic doctors. Finally, for more severe cases, surgery is often recommended.

What are the drawbacks/side effects of traditional treatments?

For mild occurrences of CTS, NSAIDs are often recommended by general practice doctors. However, these OTC medications don’t solve the underlying problem and ultimately need to be continuously taken to reduce pain and discomfort. Long-term use of NSAIDs may also have serious health implications, from ulcers to kidney and heart problems.

Corticosteroids work the same way, temporarily relieving pain and swelling, but not actively treating the root cause of the problem. These injections can require repeated trips to the clinic and can also become a financial burden on a patient.

In the case of carpal tunnel surgery, there are numerous side effects to consider, including infections, scarring which leads to sensitivity, and additional nerve damage. The latter could actually make the condition of CTS more pronounced. People that contemplate surgery may also not be aware that even after this risky procedure, CTS symptoms may still recur.

How can chiropractic care help alleviate the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

The key to successful treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is early interventions, before the damage to the nerve is too severe. The best time to seek treatment is when you are experiencing mild to moderate symptoms for less than a year, without experiencing numbness.

Chiropractors are nervous system experts, so it makes sense that a chiropractor would know how to effectively treat a nerve problem such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. A chiropractor will take a holistic approach to your therapy so ensure that the underlying causes of nerve irritation and inflammation are addressed. It’s only when these issues are treated will the symptoms begin to resolve and the nerve start to heal.

How can Oakland Spine & Physical Therapy help improve your Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Our highly trained chiropractors are leaders in the area of nerve pain and nerve conditions. They will take a multi-pronged approach to address the many potential underlying causes. Manual adjustments are used to correct imbalances in the spine and wrist joints to help improve nerve function and reduce pressure on the median nerve in the carpal tunnel.

Our chiropractors will also incorporate soft tissue therapy which addresses muscle tension and inflammation. You may also benefit from our skilled team of physical therapists, who will offer therapeutic exercises that improve the wrist’s flexibility and muscular strength. Finally, we’ll help guide you through the lifestyle modifications that can help to prevent further nerve damage and promote proper alignment.

Chiropractic and Physical Therapy Treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in New Jersey

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