Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is very prevalent in our society. Just about everyone knows of someone who has experienced or continues to experience the condition. Although the condition is very prevalent many people still do not understand what the signs and symptoms are and certainly do not understand the treatment options available.
Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel
Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel includes numbness & tingling (feelings of pins and needles), pain or burning in the thumb and the first two and a half fingers. Swelling often occurs in the fingers. Weakness of the hand or finished grip strength. It's not uncommon for sufferers of carpal tunnel syndrome to constantly drop things.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can occur in one or both hands. Most of the time when it's both hands, the patient's dominant hand is the most affected. It typically worsens at night interrupting sleep.
The symptoms may resemble other conditions. One of these other conditions which is often confused with carpal tunnel syndrome is Pronator Terres Syndrome. The difference is with the latter the patient will experience symptoms in the palm of the hand as well. There will also be symptoms affecting the forearm. It's important to differentiate between the two because the course of treatment is very different and if the wrong treatment is provided the patient will not get better. All too often doctors will treat one syndrome when the patient is actually suffering from the other condition.
What Causes Carpal Tunnel?
Lets first go over what the carpal tunnel is. Well it's just what it sounds like, a tunnel. It is a tunnel in the wrist where nine tendons and the median nerve pass through. The border of the tunnel is made up of eight tiny bones called carpals that are arranged in a “C.” At the open end there is a big thick ligament that is attached to either end of the “C.”
Carpal tunnel syndrome is when there is pressure on the median nerve. This can range from slight irritation to total compression of the nerve. There are two causes of compression to the nerve. The first is a narrowing of the tunnel itself from bones that are misaligned and protrude into the tunnel. This is the most common cause of carpal tunnel sundrome. The second is something occupying the tunnel that is generally not there. This can be infection, a tumor or bone growth such as arthritis.
Treatments for Carpal Tunnel
There are a variety of treatments available for carpal tunnel. The traditional standard of care for the medical approach is prescribing medication, physical therapy and bracing until it progresses and becomes severe enough to perform surgery. Unfortunately none of these methods actually fix the problem. Medication may treat pain short term however will not re-arrange the bones into their proper position. Neither will bracing the wrist with splints. Surgery is performed by cutting the ligament across the opening of the “C” so that the tunnel is enlarged allowing the pressure to be relieved from the nerve. This leaves the wrist unstable and often the bones shift even more over time. All of these methods typically only offer a temporary or short term solution and only focus on pain reduction.
To correct the problem with long term success the mechanical dysfunction of the wrist must be identified and corrected. This is often caused by mis aligned bones. Once identified the bones need to be realigned by someone with extensive training such as a Hand and Foot Chiropractor.
After the correction and the bones are in the proper place the wrist will function as it is intended to do. Typically the patient will experience much relief after the first treatment. Other therapies such as cold laser will also be used to aid in healing of the tissue. Lastly physical therapy will need to be done however not until the mechanical dysfunction has been corrected.
Treatment with a non-invasive conservative approach should be taken out first. This may save a patient from spending thousands of dollars and recovery time from an un-necessary surgery that many times only offers short term relief. Remember that a patient may always opt to have surgery though can not undo surgery or the side-effects which is why this approach she is the last on the list.