Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Question: Dear Dr. Harvey,
I have recently been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome. My regular doctor has recommended that I have surgery. I don't want to have surgery - is there anything a chiropractor can do for me?
Answer: First of all, I think it is important for you to gain a better understanding of carpal tunnel syndrome. CTS is usually associated with a tingling, numbness and/or pain in the fingers, hand or wrist. The symptoms range from mild to severe, constant or sporadic. Similar conditions may also occur in the arm, shoulder or neck regions.
The carpal tunnel itself is formed by the carpal bones in your wrist. Through the tunnel run a group of tendons and the median nerve. CTS is commonly associated with pressure on this nerve.
CTS affects as many as one in ten people who work with their hands and is even more common with people who perform repetitive tasks, such as secretaries, carpenters computer operators, etc. In these cases, it may also be called Overuse Syndrome.
CTS is also found in people who have suffered trauma to the hands, arm, or neck. It can also occur in pregnant women or people who experience a sudden weight change.
Now that you have a better understanding of CTS, you can take a look at the different approaches in treating this common ailment. The medical approach may include a splint to immobilize the wrist or a prescription of diuretics (or anti -inflammatory drugs. Sometimes an injection of corticosteroids is prescribed to provide temporary relief. As a last resort, surgery may be performed. Recovery can take months or even years and there is no guarantee that your symptoms will not return.
The chiropractic approach is very different. As a chiropractor, I am more interested in finding out what is causing the symptom than in simply treating the symptom. The first area I examine in a CTS case is not the wrist, but the neck. It is here that a group of nerves known as the brachial plexus comes out of the mid to lower neck region, then
branches out to the arms, hands and fingers.
If there is pressure on any of these nerves, especially the median nerve, the result may be CTS. It is not uncommon to have neck involvement when the symptoms occur in both hands. Likewise, if there is pressure on the nerves in the shoulder area, elbows, or wrist, the symptoms may also appear. As a chiropractor, I adjust the bones of the neck, known as the vertebrae, to relieve the pressure on nerves involved. It has been shown to be very effective in treating CTS by manipulating the various carpal bones in the wrist to reduce the pressure on the tunnel itself. These small bones can easily become displaced, resulting in CTS. Taping, splinting and various forms of physical therapy can also be used.
It is also an important part of treatment to determine how CTS was first developed. For instance, if a patient develops CTS because they sit in front of a computer all day, it is important to determine if the chair, desk, keyboard, screen, etc. are set up properly.
In conclusion, I feel that the chiropractic approach is an excellent choice for the treatment of CTS. It should definitely be considered before more aggressive treatment such as drugs or surgeries are attempted. Please contact me if you are suffering from any symptoms of CTS.
©2009 Dr. Harvey