Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, or CTS, is the most common diagnosis for wrist and hand pain in America. Carpal tunnel is also responsible for the highest number of days off due to work related injury. About half a million Americans get carpal tunnel operations each year, making it the most frequent surgery of the wrist. Unfortunately, after surgery the pain and numbness of carpal tunnel often returns.
The good news is that acupuncture is extremely effective at treating carpal tunnel syndrome and other types of wrist and hand pain. It provides a real alternative to surgery, oral or injected corticosteroids, and anti-inflammatory drugs. Below is our list of frequently asked questions and answers about carpal tunnel.
How Can I Get Rid of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
The most conservative method of treating carpal tunnel syndrome is acupuncture because it has the lowest incidence of serious side effects of any known treatment. Several studies have been done to demonstrate the effectiveness of treating carpal tunnel with acupuncture. Our Orlando clinic has treated hundreds of patients with carpal tunnel syndrome and has been successful in significantly reducing or eliminating the symptoms in about 90% of cases. Research about the effectiveness of acupuncture for treating carpal tunnel syndrome is at the bottom of this page.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway in the wrist made up of ligaments and bones. The median nerve, the main nerve for the wrist and hand, and the tendons that connect the muscles of the forearm to the fingers pass through this tightly spaced tunnel.
CTS, also known as median nerve entrapment, occurs when swelling or irritation of the nerve or tendons in the carpal tunnel results in pressure on the median nerve. The median nerve controls sensations to the palm side of the thumb and fingers, as well as impulses to some small muscles in the hand that allow the fingers and thumb to move.
What causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
True carpal tunnel is caused by a compression of the median nerve due to a structural problem, meaning that something is pushing on the nerve. This can be due to arthritis, a trauma or injury to the wrist, or a congenital malformation of the area. Most commonly the symptoms of carpal tunnel are due to repetitive strain, or overuse, of the wrist and hand area. The frequent use of the wrist and hand without stretching irritates the local area causing inflammation.
What are the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Symptoms usually start gradually and include one or all of the following: burning, tingling, pain, and numbness in the palm of the hand and the fingers, especially the thumb, index and middle fingers. The symptoms often first appear at night, during sleep. As the condition worsens the area and intensity of the symptoms may increase. So what was a mild tingling in the thumb may become pain and numbness in the thumb, wrist, and forearm. Decreased grip strength may also occur making it difficult to form a fist, grasp small objects, or perform other daily tasks. If not properly treated, true CTS can cause irreversible nerve damage and permanent deterioration of muscle tissue.
How Does Acupuncture Treat Carpal Tunnel Problems?
Acupuncture treats carpal tunnel at its source by increasing blood circulation to the hand and wrist area as well as the median nerve. This is how acupuncture is able to reduce the swelling and inflammation that causes the pain, numbness, tingling, and other symptoms in the wrist. Acupuncture also addresses any headaches, neck pain, shoulder stiffness and sleeping problems that may accompany this condition. If the condition is caused by arthritis Chinese herbal medicine may be used along with the acupuncture to address the arthritis.
If you have other questions about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or would like more information please call or email the clinic at 407.673.6700. If you live in the Winter Park area I invite you to schedule a free, 15 minute consultation in our office to see if we can help your carpal tunnel symptoms or any other health problems that you may be experiencing.