What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (RSI)?Carpal tunnel syndrome, a repetitive stress injury (RSI), was named as such because the anatomical structure of this form of injury. The bones in the wrist (called carpals) form a tunnel, and the median nerve travels from the forearm to the hand through this carpal tunnel. Carpal tunnel syndrome is, therefore, an injury to this area of the body. Often, the dominant wrist is the injured one, but in some patients, both left and right wrists are involved. Symptoms include pain and numbness in the index, middle fingers, and thumb, tingling in the hand(s), weakness, and pain shooting up the arm.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can be caused and worsened by repetitive motion and tasks, whereby the tendons in the carpal tunnel become swollen, which contributes to a pinched nerve in the carpal tunnel. Examples of repetitive motion include using a computer for long periods of time, performing a job on an assembly line, and using hand tools. Patients suffering with this condition are more often female than male. Middle age is the most common time in life for carpal tunnel syndrome to occur.
Many of the patients who seek chiropractic treatment for repetitive stress injuries (RSIs) do so because it is not nearly as invasive as other, more allopathic, treatments, which often rely on treatments such as medications.
How Does a Chiropractor Treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a repetitive stress injury (RSI). This category of injuries is caused by repetitive motion, such as typing or assembly line work, which causes pain and injury over time. The earlier that an RSI is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome can be. Diagnosis includes physical examination and possibly x-rays. Typically, the chiropractic treatment for RSI includes manipulation of the affected wrist and elbow, as well as manipulation of the upper spine. A spinal manipulation involves applying controlled pressure to a joint. The chiropractor may also advise the patient to rest the affected arm, apply cold to reduce inflammation, perform appropriate exercises, or wear a splint or brace to immobilize the area.
Some common treatments chiropractors use for carpal tunnel syndrome include:
- Manipulation of the wrist, arm, and upper spine: Misalignment in the spine could contribute to symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. Doctors of Chiropractic (DCs) perform adjustments (also called spinal manipulations) that aim to correct improper alignment in the spine. The chiropractor typically performs an adjustment using his or her hands, but sometimes devices are employed. Chiropractors may also adjust and treat other areas of the body as needed, including the wrist and arm.
- Ultrasound therapy: This therapy uses either very high-energy or low-energy sound, both of which are outside the range of normal human hearing. The chiropractor uses a device that emits focused sound waves that penetrate deep into body tissue. Sound waves can relax muscles, alleviate pain, and reduce inflammation.
- Wrist supports: Wrist supports seek to keep the wrist in the proper alignment and can be used to treat or prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.
What Can Be Expected During the Healing Process?
Chiropractic is generally a relatively safe practice and is a noninvasive treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome, especially compared to treatment involving medications and surgery. Studies have shown improvement in symptoms of repetitive stress injuries (RSIs), including carpal tunnel syndrome, as a result of chiropractic treatment. Some research has concluded that chiropractic can be just as effective as allopathic care for RSIs.
As with any medical treatment, prognosis for resolution of an Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI) can vary from patient to patient, based on such factors as the nature and severity of the RSI, the age and overall health of the patient, and simultaneous use of other therapies. But in many cases, chiropractic treatment has helped patients struggling with carpal tunnel syndrome. So although carpal tunnel and other RSI patients must face the realities of modern-day society with its risks of conditions like RSI, chiropractic can provide hope for managing this condition.