Carpal Tunnel Syndrome - The Most Common Mis-Diagnosis I See
At least a couple of times a week, a friend, colleague, associate or patient will tell me that they or someone they know has Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). Often they are considering surgery. This is one of my biggest pet peeves in my business. I’ll get into more about true CTS below, but for now, just know that the surgeon is suggesting that by cutting the median nerve, that goes through the wrist, into the hand, they’ll get rid of the patient’s hand and arm pain. Unfortunately, those that get this surgery usually don’t even have true CTS. In fact, I’ve only seen it once in the twelve years that I’ve been practicing. Most of these patients still have the pain after the surgery, AND they now have a severed median nerve. Fortunately, there are easy, effective, and safe ways to deal with hand and arm pain that don’t involve cutting through skin, muscles, connective tissue and nerves.
about carpal tunnel
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a condition that is associated with swelling, numbness, tingling and sometimes pain in the first three digits of the hand and arm. It’s caused by compression of the median nerve and many tendons, located in the carpal tunnel, which is a narrow passageway on the palmar side of your wrist.
CTS looks a lot like tendinitis, but has some very specific symptoms which tendinitis does not have. Tendonitis (inflammation of the tendons in the wrist joint) is therefore commonly misdiagnosed as CTS. While 4-14% of the population are diagnosed with tendonitis, the prevalence of CTS is much lower, at about 2% of the population (1). The symptoms of tendinitis are similar to CTS but not the same: tendonitis causes forearm or hand pain, and can cause numbness in the whole hand.
Because the symptoms of tendonitis and CTS present very similarly, CTS is one of the most misdiagnosed conditions out there. CTS is typically caused by forceful repetitive motions, whereas tendinitis is caused by overuse of the forearm, wrist and hand. Sound familiar? Just about everyone repetitively uses computers and phones all day. This explains why the prevalence of hand and forearm pain has been skyrocketing in the last ten years.
The good news is that CTS as well as tendonitis of the hand and arm, tennis elbow, and other hand and arm pain conditions respond very well to chiropractic treatment. Any of these conditions can be linked to misalignments, arthritis, and or degenerated discs in the lower neck, which are spinal issues that may be resolved with regular adjustments and myofascial release (2). A study from 2011 has shown that spinal manipulative therapy of the cervical and thoracic spine is proven to reduce upper-quadrant pain syndromes, including but not limited to CTS related pain. The researchers looked at 78 patients with neck pain and came up with a prediction model for patients with varying rates of improvement following spinal manipulation. They found that patients who had neck pain experienced greater improvements in their pain levels compared to to control groups who received pain-relief exercises alone. (3)
In my experience though, pain is not usually the result of one nerve, one bone or one muscle. I have yet to see a nerve acting on it’s own without the surrounding bones, nerves and nearby joints also playing a role. Generally when one area is overused or becomes dysfunctional, there is a domino effect to the surrounding areas. When someone has hand and wrist pain, an investigation of the hand, wrist, forearm, elbow, shoulder and neck are vital to discover what the cause of the pain is. We also need to investigate what motion the person is doing to cause the pain and educate on better ergonomics, exercise and maybe alternatives to that motion.
There are many safe steps to take before resorting to cutting a nerve. If you or someone you know has hand, wrist and/or forearm pain, schedule a chiropractic visit and we will help you find some relief from your pain. You can schedule via email at email@example.com or by calling 510-922-1579 to make an appointment. Or, feel free to text us at 510-292-9948.
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