What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is an idiopathic neuropathy of the median nerve of the wrist. This means that the origin of the problem is from the self or internally generated. The median nerve, which runs through the ‘tunnel’ just past the palmar wrist crease, has both sensory and motor functions. Constriction of the carpal tunnel tendons compresses the nerve and induces the various symptoms reported below. Carpal tunnel occurs three times more frequently in women than in men. Some suggest that this is due to the fact that many women have smaller wrists than most men, but it is still largely unknown what can trigger the syndrome.
Signs and Symptoms:
There may be frequent burning, tingling, or itching numbness in the palm of the hand and the fingers, especially the thumb, index and middle fingers. Sometimes these sensations will radiate up the arm to the elbow. Some people may report a feeling of uselessness of their hand or feel a sense of heaviness without any apparent swelling. There may be waking at night with hands that are “asleep” and they may need to “shake them out” to bring feeling back. Or they wake due to extreme pain in the wrists and hands. This is usually associated with the wrists being flexed while sleeping. Also some people report a loss of strength in their hands. CTS usually does not affect the little finger as the median nerve does not innervate it.
Causes of CTS:
The medical establishment does not agree completely on the causes of CTS. The general consensus, however, is that it is due to repetitive motions of the hand which include: activities such as typing, sewing, assembly line work, painting, writing, and other occupations that require repeated iterations of the same motions. Other causes are tumors, cysts, traumatic injury, inflammation, pregnancy, and aging.
Other considerations: (Note: The following was taken directly from wikipedia.)
-Rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases can cause inflammation of the flexor tendons.
-With pregnancy and hypothyroidism, fluid is retained in tissues, which swells the tenosynovium.
-During pregnancy women experience CTS due to hormonal changes and water retention, which is common during pregnancy.
-Previous injuries including fractures of the wrist can cause CTS.
-Medical disorders that lead to fluid retention or are associated with inflammation such as: inflammatory arthritis, Colles’ fracture, amyloidosis, hypothyroidism, diabetes mellitus, acromegaly, and use of corticosteroids and estrogens.
-Carpal tunnel syndrome is also associated with repetitive activities of the hand and wrist, particularly with a combination of forceful and repetitive activities.
-Acromegaly, a disorder of growth hormones, compresses the nerve by the abnormal growth of bones around the hand and wrist.
-Tumors, (usually benign), such as a ganglion or a lipoma, can protrude into the carpal tunnel, reducing the amount of space. This is exceedingly rare (less than 1%).
-Obesity also increases the risk of CTS: individuals who are classified as obese (BMI> 29) are 2.5 times more likely than slender individuals (BMI < 20) to be diagnosed with CTS.
Treatment with Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture
Although the causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome are not always clear, it does respond to acupuncture quite well. In most cases, my patients get significant relief after just two or three treatments and full recovery in five to six treatments. I have found that people that come in with CTS also have really tight and locked up muscles in the neck and shoulders. They sometimes have elbow pain as well. My protocol for CTS is a combination of acupuncture, bodywork, and exercises that focus on flexibility and range-of-motion.
It is such a relief for people when they get better, especially for those that have tried other therapies such as NSAID’s, steroid injections, or immobilization with a brace. I am particularly happy when I can help people avoid surgery.
I strongly recommend to people that they seek out acupuncture treatment in cases of Carpal tunnel Syndrome. It is safe, effective, and can save time and money in the long run.