Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: A Common Household Neuropathy
If you experience sharp, shooting pains in your arms and wrists when sitting at your desk, driving, or doing other stationary activities, you probably don’t think of neuropathy. You probably associate neuropathy with extensive nerve damage, like the kind that has to do with diabetes, severe injury, or cancer. One of the most common forms, though, is a relatively minor condition that affects millions of healthy people: carpal tunnel syndrome.
The carpal tunnel is the small space between bones in your wrist that small tendons and the median nerve run through. The median nerve runs from your forearm into your palm and controls movement and feeling in most of your hand, except for your little finger. Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) occurs when there is pressure on the median nerve in your wrist from swelling or tension. This is known as mononeuropathy, or neuropathy that affects only a single nerve.
People who suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome usually experience symptoms in their arms and hands that are similar to other kinds of neuropathy. Soreness, numbness and tingling, loss of temperature sensation and problems with fine motor control are common. Because the little finger is not controlled with the median nerve, symptoms that affect the other fingers but not the little finger could represent carpal tunnel syndrome. At first, symptoms usually show up at night (people often sleep with flexed wrists) and go away by shaking the affected hand. As time passes, though, symptoms can really stick around throughout the day.
So who is the most susceptible to getting carpal tunnel syndrome? Many sufferers are simply genetically predisposed, usually because they have thinner wrists that constrict the carpal tunnel and the median nerve. Women are three times more likely than men to develop the condition, again, because of thinner wrists.
Many people associate carpal tunnel syndrome with heavy computer use. This is probably unfounded; a 2001 study at the Mayo Clinic found that using a computer for up to 7 hours a day did not increase the likelihood of CTS developing. Carpal Tunnel syndrome is not particularly confined to any specific industry or job over any other, but studies establish that it is more common in workers doing assembly, due to the repetitive nature of the task. Because of the incorrect “conventional wisdom,” conditions such as tendonitis and writer’s cramp are often mistaken for carpal tunnel syndrome.
As with any neuropathy, it is important to identify carpal tunnel syndrome early to avoid permanent damage to the median nerve. A NeuropathyDR® clinician will be able to examine your neck, back, arms, and hands to establish the nature of any symptoms you might be having. The clinician may also recommend blood tests to check for related health conditions and nerve tests to determine any damage.
If you have been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, there are several routes for treatment. Mild conditions can be treated at home with ice and rest to reduce swelling. Avoid activities that cause repetitive wrist motions for extensive periods without resting. Practice keeping your wrist in a neutral position, such as the way it rests when holding a glass of water. Additionally, practice using your whole hand, not just your fingers, when you hold objects.
For more serious cases, or when damage to the nerve has already taken place, your NeuropathyDR® clinician may recommend more extensive measures. If your symptoms have continued for more than a few weeks with home treatments, see your ND clinician as soon as possible! Your ND clinician will be able to prescribe our specially designed CTS Protocol which is proving successful in centers around the country!
For the most serious cases of carpal tunnel syndrome, where mobility or nerve function is seriously impaired, surgery can be a solution. But almost never should you do this without trying the non-invasive ND/CTS Protocol First! [In these rare cases, a surgeon can reduce tension on the median nerve by cutting the ligament that constricts the carpal tunnel.]
If you have any questions about carpal tunnel syndrome or other neuropathic conditions, NeuropathyDR® is here to help! Don’t hesitate to contact us—we can give you more information about your symptoms and help you find a NeuropathyDR® clinician in your area.