Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful nerve problem that interferes with the use of your hand. It occurs when tissue or bone puts pressure on the nerve that runs from your neck through your wrist to your fingers. At first, you may have numbness, tingling or burning sensations in your hand. Shooting pain in the wrist or forearm may follow and your grip may become weak. The carpal tunnel is an opening in the wrist formed by bones and ligaments where tendons and nerves pass through; sliding back and forth. Repetitive hand movements such as working on an assembly line, at a computer, or with power tools can cause tendons to become inflamed and press the nerve against the walls of the carpal tunnel. An injury to the wrist or arthritis in the wrist joint can cause a bone to press on the tunnel putting pressure on the nerve. Fluid retention can also cause the tissue to swell in the tunnel and press on the median nerve of the wrist.

Two easy tests to find out if you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome: With your hand flat on a desk with your palm up tap the middle portion of your wrist. If you feel tingling, pain and numbness in the first four fingers of the hand, suspect carpal tunnel syndrome.

Flex your hand and keep it in that position with the other hand for about a minute. If your symptoms are reproduced, then suspect carpal tunnel syndrome.

Self-treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

A short course of vitamin B6 may be taken to relieve the symptoms. No more than 100 mg a day should be taken. Use vitamin B6 for about 2 months and reevaluate your condition with the tests cited above. Massaging the tendons and muscles near the wrist may help too. If working on the computer, use a wrist support, and every 15 minutes, rotate your wrist in all directions to relieve tightness and increase circulation in the wrist. Those movements should be done slowly. Exercising the hand with a soft ball or an elastic can be useful.

Which Health Care providers should I go to if my condition is not improving?

If the condition is not improving, it may be necessary to make an appointment with a neurologist, who will order an x-ray to rule out arthritis or a fracture and will perform some nerve conduction studies to check for any nerve damage. At this point in time, he may recommend that you wear a splint and take some anti-inflammatory medication and tell you that he will recheck you in 6 months to see if the condition is improving or worsening. In the mean time, you may choose to get physical therapy or chiropractic treatment which will consist most likely of electrical stimulation, ultrasound, heat, ice, and exercises.

In addition, chiropractic treatment will focus on decompressing the tunnel by realigning the bones of the wrist. Acupuncture has also been used recently with good therapeutic results.