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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – What Makes My Hands Numb?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) sufferers frequently report a cluster of symptoms, but almost all have one symptom in common: numbness, usually in digits 2-4 on palm-side of the hand. CTS is usually described as an over-use type of injury caused by repetitive work including (but not limited to): typing, assembly work, packaging jobs, machine operators, and many more. Last month, we discussed CTS “Facts” and learned many important points about CTS. This month’s focus centers around the common question, “….where is this numbness coming from?”

To answer this, let’s review the anatomy: The carpal tunnel is made up of 8 small “carpal bones” that form an arch or tunnel, and the base of the tunnel is formed from the transverse carpal ligament. There are nine tendons that attach muscles in the forearm to each finger and work when we grip or form a fist with our hand. Wiggle your fingers and look at your wrist and forearm – do you see all the activity or movement going on?

The tendons travel through sheaths which help lubricate the sliding tendons. When we move our fingers fast (such as typing, playing piano, performing assembly work, etc.), friction and heat build up, resulting in swelling. If adequate rest does not occur, the increased pressure from the swollen tendons can end up squeezing all the contents within the tunnel, which includes the median nerve. It’s the pinching of the median nerve that results in the numbness, tingling, and/or pain into the index, third, and forth fingers.

There are other conditions that can either complicate or cause CTS. These include: hypothyroid disease (due to myxedema), diabetes (due to neuropathy), inflammatory arthritis (of which there are several kinds – rheumatoid is the most common), and pinching of the nerve either in the neck, shoulder, elbow, or forearm (called double or multiple crush syndrome)

Chiropractic treatment can help alleviate the pressure on the median nerve from the neck down to the wrist, restoring proper nerve function. Many studies support the success of chiropractic for patients with CTS – try it first as surgery should be the last resort.


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