In this article we will discuss the typical symptoms seen with carpal tunnel syndrome or CTS, some of the current popular treatment options and what to do if you continue to suffer with this painful condition. Rest assured, there is a “light at the end of the tunnel”!
Common Symptoms Seen With Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The most common symptoms seen in CTS are pain, tingling, numbness and/or weakness in the hand and wrist. So the most logical approach would seem to treat the wrist, right? WRONG! Unfortunately that is where most therapies focus treating the wrist. However, from my experience, this is usually way off the mark and they often mis-diagnose what is really causing the problem in the first place.
Typical Treatment Options For CTS.
Physical therapy is usually the first treatment choice among most orthopedists, although it rarely helps. For instance, most physical therapy treatments only involve hand and wrist exercises and stretches, ultrasound or electrical stimulation over the wrist. You will typically be prescribed a cumbersome wrist splint to wear at night. These might all be the perfect solution “IF” the problem was only at the wrist. More times than not, this is not the case. The hand pain is only the effect and not the cause.
When this produces no results, the next approach is a much more serious one and often prescribed is surgery of the flexor retinaculum which covers the wrist tendons and nerve. The logic is that if the median nerve at the wrist is being compressed or compromised in some way, then the flawed notion is that you should surgically reduce the thickness of this sheath. Unfortunately, this surgery rarely provides permanent relief and symptoms frequently return. To make matters worse, now you are left with a 3-4 inch incision at your hand and wrist, possibly with additional scar tissue that can result and compress the nerve. So now, you can have post-op carpal tunnel syndrome from the surgery itself! Plus, the true cause of the problem still remains since it was completely overlooked in the first place. Not very good options when you treat CTS from this approach.
Most of the time, CTS occurs from dysfunctional structures from the neck to the shoulder. These include, the cervical vertebrae and disks, the first rib and clavicle, the muscles of the neck specifically the scalenes and sternocleidomastoid (SCM), the levator scapulae and one or more of the rotator cuff group. When these muscles become over-contracted for an extended period of time, they develop what are called “trigger points” within them. This over-contracting and muscle knotting can actually reduce the space at the side of the neck where the nerve goes down the arm ultimately causing symptoms at the wrist and hand.
The problem in trying to perform exercises or stretches on these muscle occurs when they are performed BEFORE the trigger points have been reduced or eliminated. These “therapeutic” activities can actually worsen the problem within these muscles causing more muscle pain, inflammation and further nerve irritation.
What to do if you’re still suffering.
First, in our office a patient who presents with carpal tunnel syndrome is thoroughly examined from the neck all the way down to the hand. Once the problem(s) have been identified, therapy begins which can include gentle joint manipulation to correct skeletal structural distortions and address muscle imbalances with specific exercises and stretches. But before this is achieved, first we need locate and remove all trigger points in the muscles. This is accomplished with deep tissue myofascial release techniques and Class IV Laser treatments to further eliminate trigger points. The Our deep tissue laser also will promote blood flow, increase lymphatic drainage, increase nerve condition and promote cell regeneration and accelerate the healing process. Other than Class IV Laser, no other therapeutic modality can promote these biological responses in the body that are so crucial for true, rapid and complete multi-tissue healing.