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Carpal Tunnel: What it is and how Chiropractic can help!

Do you experience tingling or numbness in your hands and fingers? Maybe it feels like sharp pins and needles, or perhaps you experience burning feelings in your hands, wrists, and even forearms. Perhaps your symptoms are worse at night, or you wake up with numb hands in the morning.

carpal tunnel
carpal tunnel

Sometimes it is a minor annoyance that can be shaken off –literally by a brief flick or shake of the hands can help the sensations disappear or go away before continuing your daily routine.(1)

However, if left unaddressed and untreated, these symptoms may slowly progress and worsen to a point where holding a bagel causes sharp, shooting feelings into your fingers, or picking up and holding a stylus for a tablet is painfully frustrating. You may even experience a loss of grip strength or start dropping your phone or car keys more often.

Carpal tunnel syndrome often feels like numbness or uncomfortable sensations in your hands and wrists, particularly with your thumb, pointer, and middle fingers.(1,2,3,4)

But what is carpal tunnel syndrome?

What is the Carpal Tunnel, and How is it Injured?

Think of a mountain blocking the path of a train. Rather than spend additional time plotting a course to weave around the mountain, a tunnel is built for the train to move through it. That tunnel is the carpal tunnel; it consists of a series of small bones in the wrist in a U-shape, with a ligamentous band creating the “roof” of the mountain tunnel.

What train runs through the carpal tunnel? That would be the many ligaments, nerves, tendons, and vascular structures that supply mobility and strength to the hand. These structures run the length of the carpal tunnel and allow the wrist to engage in movements such as flexion, extension, and grip.

carpal tunnel syndrome

However, like other parts of the body, compromise and injury can occur in the tunnel area of the wrist. Inside the carpal tunnel is a specific nerve known as the median nerve, which supplies sensation to the palm side of the hand and the first 3 ½ fingers.

Compression of the median nerve creates carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms. Carpal tunnel syndrome is the most common entrapment neuropathy of the upper extremity, hands, and wrists, affecting people who use their hands for a living. Carpal tunnel syndrome affects approximately 3% of the population! (2,4)

Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome can come on suddenly or gradually (1,4), depending on the cause.

Acute injuries can damage or tear ligaments and tendons, fracture bones, create inflammation, cause swelling, and compress or pinch the nerve directly. Repetitive injuries, such as working an assembly line, grasping a steering wheel to drive, or typing on a keyboard, can cause injury to the wrist tendons. This causes swelling and other mechanical problems in the wrist, including carpal tunnel syndrome. (4)

Space-occupying tumors, using construction equipment and vibrational tools, and pregnancy (8) can also contribute to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome.