Monday, January 28, 2013

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome-Its Causes & Treatment

I had lunch with a friend the other day.  He asked me what I thought were the main causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS).  I have been working with CTS since the mid 90's when I was part of the control group for cold laser therapy prior to its approval from the FDA in 2002.  At that time there was much discussion about the effects of computer work and its correlation to CTS.  As of 2012, the National Institute of Health reports the most likely cause is due to a congenital predisposition which means that the carpal tunnel is simply smaller in some individuals than others.   There are metabolic problems such as pregnancy, diabetes and arthritis which may contribute to CTS or mechanical problems such as a fracture of the wrist or a sprain.  Studies also show that working with vibrating tools or work on an assembly line that requires prolonged or repetitive flexing, may put excess pressure on the median nerve.  It was shown that CTS is 3 time more common in assembly line workers than those that work at a computer station for up to 7 hours per day.
CTS is caused by compression of the median nerve which runs down the arm, through the tunnel and into the hand on the thumb side.   There can be  pain, burning, tingling and/or numbness in the thumb, index and middle fingers and the palm of the hand.  These symptoms may occur while sleeping, driving, or performing any task that requires the fingers and wrist. 

The best approach to relieving the symptoms and cause of the pain is to seek early diagnosis and treatment thereby avoiding permanent damage to the median nerve.  The examination consists of a number of orthopedic and neurological tests.  Upon diagnosis there are a few different approaches to treatment.  The cold laser therapy has been shown to treat CTS over a period of time given that it has not progressed too far.  The National Institute of Health has stated that acupuncture and chiropractic have benefited some patients. 

Here at Young Chiropractic, I use all three procedures to help with the treatment of CTS.  I discuss your extracurricular activities, the tasks performed daily as related to your job and many everyday activities that you perform.  I find that with a good treatment regime, a stretching program, adaptations to your home and work activities, and possibly a night splint, the CTS can be relieved or at least kept at bay. If you do not respond to treatment, then I recommend that you seek a medical doctor that specializes in CTS.