The carpal tunnel is a channel formed by the carpal bones at the base of the wrist and the transverse carpal ligament running across the top of the wrist. It is home to the median nerve, which provides sensory and motor functions to the fingers (sans the pinky). When the median nerve is constricted, numbness, tingling, or pain results in the hand and arm. This is known as carpal tunnel syndrome or median nerve compression.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can result in numbness or pain in either or both hands and wrists. The dominant hand is usually affected first and experiences more severe symptoms. Sometimes nerve stress manifests as a tingling, “pins and needles” kind of feeling in the fingers. This can even go so far as to feel like a burning sensation. In some cases, the fingers may feel swollen, though no signs of swelling are present.
Nerve compression can also result in weakness in the hands, making it difficult to grip small objects or even to perform daily tasks. Symptoms are known to flare up at night or early in the morning. Very severe cases may reduce a person’s ability to distinguish between hot and cold, resulting in burns to the fingertips.
It is difficult to pinpoint an exact cause of carpal tunnel syndrome, but there are several traits that may contribute:
Gender. Carpal tunnel syndrome develops in women more than men, three times more. This is potential because their carpal tunnels are generally smaller than those of men.
Illness. Nerve damage caused by diabetes or other diseases may result in carpal tunnel pain.
Inflammatory conditions. Swelling caused by rheumatoid arthritis can apply pressure to the median nerve.
Injury. Injuries of the wrist or hand may cause swelling that can compress the median nerve.
High fluid retention. High fluid retention common during menopause or pregnancy can cause swelling in the carpal tunnel. Carpal tunnel syndrome caused by swelling linked to hormonal changes during pregnancy generally resolves after pregnancy.
Hormonal imbalance. Other hormonal changes, such as an overactive pituitary gland or underactive thyroid gland, can lead to pain in the carpal tunnel.
Unnatural growth. The development of a cyst or tumor near the median nerve can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
Environmental factors. Employment that involves repetitive wrist movement or tools that vibrate can jar or put stress on the median nerve, resulting in carpal tunnel syndrome.
If carpal tunnel-related pain infringes on your daily activities, see a healthcare professional. The syndrome is diagnosed after a physical examination and a look into medical family history. Diagnosis can be difficult as carpal tunnel syndrome cannot usually be linked to just one cause.
Carpal tunnel syndrome generally does not resolve itself, and tends to get worse over time, so seek care early on. Attending to carpal tunnel syndrome quickly with measures such as a wrist brace or splint can relieve symptoms. Healthcare providers may also prescribe anti-inflammatory medication to reduce swelling around the nerve site. In very serious cases, patients may require corrective surgery, but we at Rock Creek Spine and Rehabilitation recommend catching the problem long before that need arises.
Chiropractic treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome ranges from gentle exercises to improve functionality in wrist extension and flexion to adjustments and spinal manipulation. Realigning the spine fosters general wellness and promotes the body’s ability to heal itself. Chiropractic care for the upper spine, forearms, wrists, and hands can be therapeutic, and massage therapy can relax and lengthen the muscles in question to strengthen your body against future problems. Meet with one of our chiropractors to discuss your best options for care by contacting us today in Broomfield, CO!