Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is the most expensive of all work-related injuries. Over his or her lifetime, a carpal tunnel patient loses about $30,000 in medical bills and time absent from work.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome typically occurs in adults, with women 3 times more likely to develop it than men. The dominant hand is usually affected first, and the pain is typically severe. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is especially common in assembly-line workers in manufacturing, sewing, finishing, cleaning, meatpacking, and similar industries. Dr. Adam Favro uses A.R.T., ultrasound and other state of the art techniques in his Saratoga Springs chiropractic office to treat carpal tunnel symptoms.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
CTS is a problem of the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the hand. CTS occurs when the median nerve gets compressed in the carpal tunnel—a narrow tunnel at the wrist—made up of bones and soft tissues, such as nerves, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels. The compression may result in pain, weakness, and/or numbness in the hand and wrist, which radiates up into the forearm. CTS is the most common of the “entrapment neuropathies”—compression or trauma of the body’s nerves in the hands or feet.
What are the symptoms?
Burning, tingling, itching, and/or numbness in the palm of the hand and thumb, index, and middle fingers are most common. Some people with CTS say that their fingers feel useless and swollen, even though little or no swelling is apparent. Since many people sleep with flexed wrists, the symptoms often first appear while sleeping. As symptoms worsen, they may feel tingling during the day. In addition, weakened grip strength may make it difficult to form a fist or grasp small objects. Some people develop wasting of the muscles at the base of the thumb. Some are unable to distinguish hot from cold by touch.
Why does carpal Tunnel Syndrome Happen?
Some people have smaller carpal tunnels than others, which makes the median nerve compression more likely. In others, CTS can develop because of an injury to the wrist that causes swelling, over-activity of the pituitary gland, hypothyroidism, diabetes, inflammatory arthritis, mechanical problems in the wrist joint, poor work ergonomics, repeated use of vibrating hand tools, and fluid retention during pregnancy or menopause.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome vs. Carpal Tunnel Symptom Diagnosis
At Turning Point Chiropractic, we specialize in non-surgical ways to get you better faster and keep you healthy longer. Dr. Adam Favro has found that approximately 80% of pateints who present with carpal tunnel symptoms can be treated successfully by addressing tight muscles in the neck, upper arm and forearm that may entrap the nerve before it even reaches the carpal tunnel. A very specific diagnostic process will help determine of the patient has a true nerve entrapment in the carpal tunnel of is years of overuse have caused the nerved to be trapped before it enters the tunnel.
CTS should be diagnosed and treated early. A specific physical examination of the hands, arms, shoulders, and neck can help determine if your symptoms are related to daily activities or to an underlying disorder.
Laboratory tests and x-rays can reveal diabetes, arthritis, fractures, and other common causes of wrist and hand pain. Sometimes electro-diagnostic tests, such as nerve conduction velocity testing, are used to help confirm the diagnosis. With these tests, small electrodes, placed on your skin, measure the speed at which electrical impulses travel across your wrist. CTS will slow the speed of the impulses and will point your doctor of chiropractic to this diagnosis.
What is the Treatment for CTS?
Initial therapy includes:
- Resting the affected hand and wrist
- Avoiding or altering activities that may worsen symptoms
- Using Kinesio taping to aid in movement patterns
- Applying cool packs to help reduce swelling from inflammations
Some medications can help with pain control and inflammation. Studies have shown that vitamin B6 supplements may reduce CTS symptoms.
Chiropractic joint manipulation and mobilization of the wrist and hand, stretching and strengthening exercises, Active Release Techniques, ultrasound and cold laser therapy have all shown positive effects. Scientists are also investigating other therapies, such as acupuncture, that may help prevent and treat this disorder.
Occasionally, patients whose symptoms fail to respond to conservative care may require surgery. The surgeon releases the ligament covering the carpal tunnel. The majority of patients recover completely after treatment, and the recurrence rate is low. Proper posture and movement as instructed by your doctor of chiropractic can help prevent CTS recurrences.
How can CTS be prevented?
The American Chiropractic Association recommends the following tips:
- Perform on-the-job conditioning, such as stretching and light exercises.
- Take frequent rest breaks.
- Wear splints to help keep the wrists straight.
- Use fingerless gloves to help keep the hands warm and flexible.
- Use correct posture and wrist position.
- To minimize workplace injuries, jobs can be rotated among workers. Employers can also develop programs in ergonomics—the process of adapting workplace conditions and job demands to workers’ physical capabilities.