Carpal tunnel syndrome is the impingement of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel (which is the space between the carpal bones that the median nerve passes through to get from the forearm to the wrist).

Traditional western therapy involves anti-inflammatory medications, rest, exercise, or surgery to cut the transverse carpal ligament of the wrist to make room for the median nerve.

Physiology of carpal tunnel syndrome

Western medicine theory claims that the carpal tunnel may get swollen due to inflammation, or may just be physiologically too small for the nerve to pass through.
1) There are nine tendons that pass through the carpal tunnel along with the median nerve. Any swelling, inflammation or enlargement of these tendons can put pressure on the median nerve and cause numbness or tingling in the hand.
2) If the bones of the wrist are too close together, then the carpal tunnel is smaller and more likely to impinge upon the median nerve.

But this doesn’t explain why there is a problem now when there wasn’t a problem before.

Often times due to improper usage of the wrist or hands, subluxations (which are minor dislocations of the bones in the joint) happen in the wrist. Improper wrist usage may also cause scar tissue to develop in the ligaments of the wrist, creating a thickening of the ligaments.

Thickening of the ligaments or subluxations of the bones can put pressure on the tendons which can in turn cause them to swell and put pressure on the median nerve (to treat diseases effectively it is necessary to follow them back to the origin, and not get stuck on the steps along the way).

• The body usually responds with inflammation to break down the scar tissue in the ligament, or to attempt to remodel the bone in the case of subluxation.

• Treating with anti-inflammatory medication doesn’t make sense because the inflammation is the body’s response to the problem, not the problem itself.

• And surgically cutting the transverse carpal ligament doesn’t make sense to treat scar tissue as this can ultimately lead to drastically more scar tissue.

• To treat this problem at its root, manual mobilization, connective tissue acceleration, and tui na medical massage can be applied to the wrist to eliminate scar tissue and carpal subluxations. All of these therapies are available at Roots of Eastern Medicine Acupuncture Clinic.

Diagnosis

If you are unsure whether or not you have carpal tunnel, the following tests can provide a pretty good idea.

Phalen’s test: Press the back of your hands together and hold in that position for one minute. If this reproduces or aggravates hand pain, numbness and tingling, then it is more likely that you have carpal tunnel. This test makes the carpal tunnel smaller and so if there is entrapment there it will be amplified in this position.

Tinel’s test: Press your finger against the palmer side of your wrist between the tendons. Hold it for about one minute. This test also compresses the median nerve within the carpal tunnel. If it aggravates symptoms then it’s more likely you have carpal tunnel syndrome.

Western Medicine Alternative to Surgery

Often a wrist brace to hold the wrist is prescribed, the justification being that when the wrist is held straight, the carpal tunnel is wider and less likely to impinge upon the nerve.

This should not be worn constantly, however, as proper circulation to the ligaments of the wrist require wrist movement, and immobilization for a long term can lead to more scar tissue.

Braces can be worn at night, however and sometimes mitigate pain and numbness in true cases of carpal tunnel. This is a good way to diagnose that the problem is indeed in the wrist and not somewhere else. If the brace works, corrective therapy needs to focus on the wrists.

Your carpal tunnel may be a misdiagnosed cervical/thoracic nerve impingement

Symptoms associated with carpal tunnel of pain and numbness in the hand(s) at night, pain and numbness during the day, loss of strength and motor function are all consistent with a problem in the neck or upper back which pinches the nerves that go to the arm.

Your neck may have a problem whether you experience neck pain or not because pinched nerves malfunction and symptoms don’t always present at the site of impingement

• If your “carpal tunnel syndrome” is actually a neck problem (which is known as cervical radiculopathy, or possibly thoracic outlet syndrome), then treating the wrist is completely pointless (other than as a means of trial and error) and will ultimately be ineffective in alleviating your symptoms.

Numbness and tingling present in the forearm as well as the wrist

Pathologies of the elbow can present with numbness and tingling of the forearm as well as the hand. In this case the elbow must be treated to mitigate symptoms referring to the hand.

Proper diagnosis is necessary in treating any disease and a thorough examination to find the source of your problem will be provided at Roots of Eastern Medicine Acupuncture Clinic.

Other general diseases that affect the nervous system need to be ruled out such as peripheral neuropathy that results from diabetes. Your primary physician should provide a blood test to rule out systemic diseases, and if they haven’t, please get it checked out.

A word on bones calcium deposits and bone spurs

If scar tissue or subluxations are not treated in time, it can lead to the build up of calcium deposits and bone spurs, which can further impinge upon the median nerve. Although it takes longer to treat, bone spurs can still be treated non-invasively with Connective Tissue Acceleration. By increasing blood flow to the area in question the body can naturally gradually remodel the bone to its original shape. More on calcium deposits and bone spurs in a later article.

Final words

If symptoms of wrist pain, hand pain, numbness, and tingling are keeping you up at night or interfering with your life in general, stop waiting in discomfort. Make an appointment at Roots of Eastern Medicine Acupuncture Clinic. The sooner you act the faster you will recover.