Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) begins with numbness and tingling in the hand and may involve aching in the hand, forearm or shoulder. It is a very common condition, particularly with the massive increase in desk bound workers (repetitive strain). It is caused by a pinched nerve in the palm of the hand.
The symptoms may occur intermittently during the daytime and sometimes occur at night; it is not uncommon for the sufferer to think that the hands have “poor circulation” and shake the hands in an attempt to relieve the pain/tingling.
The carpal tunnel is a narrow tunnel formed by the bones and other tissues of the wrist through which the nerves, ligaments and tendons pass to the hand. When there is a repeat of the same hand and wrist movements day in and day out, the excessive strain causes tendons to swell and become inflamed. This inflammation presses on the main nerve of the hand (the median nerve), causing pain in the hand and wrist, resulting in Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
As mentioned above, repetitive motions typically cause CTS. Any activity that involves grasping, squeezing or clipping motions such as using a computer, using tools, knitting or playing the piano can be pre-disposing factors to CTS. However, there are also possible underlying disorders which can cause CTS, for example thyroid problems, as well as other blood and neurological conditions.
Osteopaths have the required knowledge and skills to determine the cause of CTS and either treat the condition or refer to specialists for further tests. Initially a physical examination of the hands, arms, shoulders, neck and indeed the entire body structure is performed as well as detailed questions to determine if the patient’s complaints are related to daily activities or to an underlying disorder.
If the osteopath concludes that treatment should commence then often a combination of gentle soft tissue and articulatory techniques are used. Coupled with this advice, stretches and exercises are often prescribed to aid recovery. We also use laser therapy, at our local practices, to help speed recovery.