Do you notice pain, tingling, and numbness in your hands and wrists after a long day at the keyboard or after pitching a few innings of baseball? Or perhaps you have trouble keeping your wrist bent when reading a book or driving your car. These are just a few ways people notice the first signs and symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. The median nerve runs down your arm and through a passage in the wrist known as the carpal tunnel. When the median nerve is aggravated it can affect movement and sensation in your hand and fingers. The good news is, there are options for non-surgical treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome. As soon as you start noticing symptoms, talk to your doctor or chiropractor to begin treatment and avoid your carpal tunnel syndrome getting worse.
Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The most common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include tingling and numbness in your wrist, the palm of your hand, and in your thumb, index, and middle fingers. Some people with carpal tunnel syndrome describe the sensation of their fingers “falling asleep”, especially when sleeping at night. You may also feel sensations like burning or itching in your hands and fingers. Sometimes that tingling feeling can even move up into your arm and even your shoulder, causing pain and discomfort. You may notice you are starting to have trouble holding things and feel weakness in your hands. When your median nerve is compressed inside the carpal tunnel, it can result in less feeling in your palm and fingers, as well as decreased strength and coordination in your hands and wrists.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Causes and Risk Factors
Some of the most ordinary causes of carpal tunnel syndrome include activities you likely participate in every day: typing on a keyboard, writing long letters, or motions that involve the wrist and hand like twisting, pulling, or holding something for a long time. This wear and tear on the body can put stress on the median nerve at various points from where the median nerve starts in the neck and runs through the shoulder, elbow, and wrist into the hand. Inflammation is a common cause of carpal tunnel syndrome because swelling near the median nerve can compromise its functioning. Other conditions known for causing carpal tunnel syndrome include diabetes, thyroid dysfunction, high blood pressure, and injury to the wrist. Some occupations that use repetitive hand and wrist motions can also lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, like sewers, knitters, bakers, hairstylists, and assembly line workers.
Diagnosing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
When you visit your doctor about carpal tunnel syndrome, they will want to perform a physical examination to learn more about how your median nerve may be compromised. You may likely be asked to perform a series of motions that demonstrates how your mobility and flexibility have been affected. For example, your doctor may want to see you touch your thumb to each of your fingers on the same hand and note when you experience the most pain. They may also have you fully extend your arms and wrists and tap the inside of your wrist and palm. If your carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by an injury to the wrist, your doctor may also want to run imaging tests of the area, like an X-ray, ultrasound, or an MRI. This will provide your doctor with clearer images of the area and also help rule out other possible causes of your symptoms, like a fracture.
Non-Surgical Treatment Options for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Your options for non-surgical treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome will depend on the severity of your symptoms and the progression of the condition. If caught early, your doctor may be able to recommend simple lifestyle changes like taking regular breaks, avoiding certain activities that aggravate your nerves, and even some stretches and exercises to keep pressure off of the median nerve. However, in many cases, more intervention is required to alleviate your symptoms and restore proper functioning to the median nerve.
With many overuse and wear-and-tear conditions, resting the area is key to allowing time for healing. Your doctor may recommend you wear a brace or splint on your hand and wrist to prevent certain movements and to take pressure off of your nerves. A splint or brace will also provide some support to your arm and wrist while inflammation goes down and healing begins. If your carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms are more common at night and you wake up with tingling, numb hands and fingers, then your doctor may recommend a brace you wear at night.
Stretches & Exercises
Your doctor will likely recommend stretches and exercises to strengthen the area and restore flexibility and mobility. When you experience pain in your wrist or arm, you may develop certain motions to compensate for the pain that can leave certain muscles weakened from disuse or strained due to overuse. Stretches will help promote blood flow to the area so healing can begin and also strengthen the supportive muscles and tendons. Certain exercises can help improve your range of motion in your wrist and strengthen the muscles that support and surround the median nerve. Stretches and exercises can help reduce the pain you experience with carpal tunnel syndrome while releasing pressure on the median nerve. Some of the goals will be to improve your range of motion and functioning in your hand and fingers.
Your chiropractor can provide you with non-invasive and non-surgical treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome through chiropractic care. Chiropractors take a natural approach to pain relief and healing, so you can expect gentle therapeutic adjustments to your spine and joints that help restore proper nerve functioning. The median nerve can be compressed or aggravated anywhere along the route from your neck to your wrist, so your chiropractor can determine where this might be occurring. Since the median nerve starts in the cervical spine, your chiropractor will want to make sure you have healthy alignment in your spine that isn’t affecting the nerve. Your chiropractor can also use therapeutic massage and manual therapy around the affected joint to restore proper nerve functioning.
At Nathans Family Chiropractic, we also offer regenerative medicine to address a variety of conditions and injuries. Regenerative medicine is a cutting-edge treatment that encourages the body’s natural healing responses to address damaged or injured tissues. This is a minimally invasive, non-surgical option to treat injuries or conditions that are causing you pain without resorting to powerful prescription pills or surgery. Your doctor may recommend regenerative medicine to help address the source of your carpal tunnel syndrome pain and promote healing and regrowth of damaged tissues in your arm, wrist, and hand.
Preventing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in the Future
Our doctors at Nathans Family Chiropractic are here to help you experience lasting relief from your carpal tunnel syndrome and recover faster without the risks associated with more invasive treatment options. Our non-surgical treatment for carpal tunnel allow for a faster healing and recovery period and encourage the body’s ability to repair and heal itself. Part of the treatment process for carpal tunnel syndrome is also preventing the symptoms from occurring again in the future. Strengthening exercises, therapeutic massage, and proper spine and joint alignments can all contribute to healthier habits and improved nerve functioning in your whole body.