What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a pretty common condition caused by repetitive movements that aggravate the main nerve that runs through your wrist – the median nerve. The anatomy of this condition is closely related to several other conditions that affect the soft tissue in and around the wrist, like De Quervain’s syndrome and other types of tendonitis. The carpal tunnel is kind of literally a tunnel that holds several tendons and the median nerve that run through the wrist. The carpal ligament itself is the “roof” of this tunnel, and the “walls” are bones. For many years we have been taught that since this tunnel has a definite structure, if the ligaments inside become inflamed and swell, they put too much pressure on the median nerve. This results in pain in the wrist and/or numbness in the hand or fingers – specifically, people report numbness in the thumb of the affected wrist. This classic teaching is not the case and does not happen. Indeed, if we biopsy the tendon coverings there is no evidence of this theorized inflammation.
Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Symptoms of carpal tunnel develop similarly to tennis elbow; over a long period of time wrist movements become uncomfortable, tingly and eventually, painful. Since it is a repetitive movement condition, it’s difficult to treat because it’s really hard not to move your wrist(s) throughout the day; we use our hands for everything.
Common symptoms include:
- Pain in the affected wrist, which can vary from an aching feeling to a sharp, shooting pain that radiates through the hand and/or arm.
- Grip weakness in the affected hand. In really bad cases of carpal tunnel, muscles in the thumb may even atrophy.
- Numbness and tingling in the fingers, hand and/or wrist.
- Changes in temperature in the hand and fingers, caused by restricted nerve function and blood flow.
Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome tends to be a repetitive movement condition, which means that holding your wrist in a certain position (like reading) or doing the same motion over and over (like typing) aggravates the ligaments in the wrist which, in turn, aggravate the median nerve. But, there are some factors that increase your likelihood of developing carpal tunnel syndrome:
- Being a woman
- Being over 40 years old
- Being an alcoholic
- Thyroid imbalances
- Hereditary links
Typical Treatments for a Carpal Tunnel Diagnosis
Carpal tunnel tends to be a chronic, if inconsistent condition because, again, we use our wrists and hands for almost everything. So seeking treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome as early as possible in the progression of the condition is critical. But carpal tunnel syndrome is often confused with De Quervain’s syndrome or tendonitis, so a doctor will often use an EMG or an MRI to look at the carpal ligament and the median nerve to confirm the diagnosis. Initially, carpal tunnel treatment may include cortisone shots or NSAID routines. We discourage both of these options. And typically, if these don’t help the dysfunction and discomfort, surgery to cut/release the carpal ligament is also a common treatment for carpal tunnel. Cutting the carpal ligament takes the “roof” off of the tunnel, giving everything inside more room to breathe. It’s a simple procedure with fairly mild symptoms during recovery. Unfortunately this treatment only provides 50% good results. The other 50% of results are not good, and 30% of those result in chronic problems and some loss of use of your hand. Fortunately, there are some other less invasive things you can try before resorting to this kind of surgery.
Natural Methods to Treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
If you’re early on in its progression, carpal tunnel syndrome treatments may not even be necessary. You can implement a few simple habits that might relieve the issue. Specific vitamins, taking regular breaks from the physical activities that caused it, wearing splints at night, specific fascia release exercises that we teach, and being mindful of not flexing your wrist too much are all habits you can develop that are easy, safe and don’t require a doctor.
Regenerative Medicine for Carpal Tunnel
Unfortunately, sometimes a doctor’s intervention is necessary. But there are doctors in regenerative medicine who specialize in new types of carpal tunnel syndrome treatment that can help alleviate your pain or even encourage your body to heal the damage. This is where our focus lies at Blatman Health and Wellness Center. We treat carpal tunnel syndrome with a variety of more holistic methods, including median nerve release by hydrodissection, platelet-rich-plasma treatments and stem cell injections. All of these treatments are minimally invasive and are composed of natural biological material from your own body. Both PRP therapy and stem cell treatment are meant to kick-start and aid your body’s healing processes to repair the damage that’s causing your pain. We use these two treatments for a number of issues, like knee damage and lower back pain.
If it’s time for you to get carpal tunnel syndrome treatment, give us a call today to book an appointment.