Eight tiny bones in the writs form a tunnel for three nerves and various blood vessels to pass from the arm into the hand. This tunnel is called the carpal tunnel. Irritation to the ligaments and bones that comprise this structure can result in the common malady known as carpal tunnel syndrome.
The pain, numbness, and tingling associated with Carpal tunnel syndrome are caused from irritation to the median nerve, which runs through the center of the wrist. This nerve supplies feeling and motor function (the ability to move your fingers) to the first three fingers of the hand. Symptoms include pain, numbness, and tingling and usually occur at night or in the early hours of the morning.
Women are affected with this problem more than men. This may have to due with hormonal factors that affect fluid retention in the body. In general, any build up of fluid in the tissue can further compress the area within the carpal tunnel.
The position of the hand and wrist can ease or worsen the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Temporary relief from symptoms is often obtained by shaking the affected hand in the air, elevating the wrist, or placing the hand in hot water. Placing the wrist in an extended or flexed position, especially for a prolonged period of time, aggravates the symptoms and the condition.
Since decreasing blood flow to the area increases symptoms, it is believed that the median nerve irritation is a result of poor blood supply through the tunnel to the nerve. There may also be a slight amount of hand discoloration, due to this suspected circulatory deficiency.
Although part of the thumb may be involved, the general area of involvement is felt in the index and middle finger. There may be slight difficulty or clumsiness associated with this condition. This is due to the lack of proper nerve function. Grip strength is usually only slightly decreased; however, patients who have this condition regularly report periods of weakness and may have problems with dropping things.
If you think you are suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, your Doctor of Chiropractic can help diagnose this condition. A careful examination and history can help your chiropractor outline a corrective or palliative (way of controlling and decreasing the symptoms) course of treatment for you to follow.
Chiropractic therapies that help this condition are manipulation of the wrist bones to improve circulation through the tunnel, proper stretching, conditioning, bracing (thumb-loop night brace), therapeutic, and nutritional measures (Extra B6, bromelain, etc.). It is important to follow the advice of your doctor, as this condition is not easily helped by exercise. Ultrasound also demonstrates disappointing results, as the swelling inside the tunnel is shielded by the wrist bones that make up the tunnel. Use of hot and cold hand soaks my therefore be recommended instead of ultrasound therapy to help treat this condition.