Patients with carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) have hand and wrist symptoms that range from tingling and numbness to pain and weakness. Some occupations see more of this disease than others. For example, workers who use vibratory hand tools and those who engage in repetitive flexion motions of the wrist seem to be at greatest risk. Computer workers and typists can also develop CTS-like symptoms.
It is a lesser known fact that individuals with neck injuries such as whiplash can also develop CTS. This is because the median nerve can become irritated or compressed as it exits the spine, before it can travel to the arm, wrist, and into the hand.
Occasionally, carpal tunnel symptoms can occur in patients with diabetes or multiple sclerosis. Although these diseases are rarer, it is important to rule them out with a proper diagnosis prior to beginning any treatment program.
So what treatment options are available? Medical doctors will typically use drugs to decrease inflammation and block pain signals. If this doesn’t work, the patient may be prescribed a splint or brace to prevent wrist movements while the nerve heals. Surgery is sometimes done when these medical treatments are ineffective. The surgery is designed to open up the carpal tunnel and release compression of the nerve.
If or when you go to a chiropractic office, both a wrist and spinal examination will be performed to see if your symptoms may be caused by median nerve compression at anatomic sites away from or in addition to the wrist. X-rays are usually needed of the wrist and hand to see if there are any misalignments of the joints and to rule out other diseases, such as fracture. This is especially important if you have suffered a trauma to the wrist, such as a fall. X-rays of the spine are also indicated to see the spinal structures and determine if this is a cause of the wrist or hand symptoms. If you have had trauma to your neck in the past, this should be communicated to a doctor.
It’s important to consider conservative options first before contemplating wrist surgery. Some patients prefer a non-drug approach to health and do not want to simply mask the pain symptoms. Also, long-term consumption of anti-inflammatory drugs can have serious side effects, such as liver or kidney damage. You will need a thorough examination to see if you are a good candidate for chiropractic care.