This month, we will conclude our three-part series on important facts regarding carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).
CTS TREATMENT OPTIONS (continued): Aside from the carpal tunnel, there are several places where the median nerve can become compressed as it travels from the neck, down through the shoulder, through tight muscular areas of the upper arm and forearm, and finally through the carpal tunnel at the wrist. In order to achieve good, long-lasting results, treatment must focus on relieving compression at any point along the course of the nerve. This is why chiropractic works SO WELL as it addresses ALL of these areas using manual adjustments, muscle release techniques, and even physical therapy modalities.
CTS PREVENTION: Because there are multiple causes of CTS, prevention must be tailored to each person. For example, if the patient has diabetes mellitus, maintaining a proper blood sugar level is very important because the blood becomes thicker as the sugar levels increase and it simply cannot pass through our small blood vessels (capillaries), especially those located in the feet and hands. This can eventually lead to the need for amputation due to poor circulation and contribute to the numbness associated with diabetic neuropathy.
Similarly, low thyroid function results in a type of swelling called myxedema that can cause or worsen CTS, and keeping the thyroid hormone balanced in the bloodstream is very important. Managing other conditions that create inflammation or swelling, such as rheumatoid and other types of arthritis, will also help prevent CTS from developing or worsening.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can also occur during pregnancy due to the hormonal shifts similar for those taking birth control pills. The PRICE treatment options presented last month can be very helpful for the pregnant mother and represent important non-medication self-care approaches.
Certain occupations that require fast, repetitive work and/or firm gripping can result in carpal tunnel syndrome because of the friction that results in swelling that occurs when the muscle tendons inside the carpal tunnel rub excessively fast together (kind of like starting a fire with two sticks). Modifying the work task until the swelling is controlled is VERY important, as discussed last month.
Other preventative measures include exercises that keep the muscles and tendons in the forearm and inside the carpal tunnel stretched so that the tendons easily slide inside their respective muscle tendon sheaths. This is accomplished by placing the palm side of the hand (elbow straight) on a wall with the fingers pointing downwards while reaching across with the opposite hand and pulling the thumb back until you feel a good firm stretch. Hold this position for 5-10 seconds or until the forearm muscles feel like they are relaxing. Repeat this multiple times a day.
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