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Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist. The median nerve controls sensations to the palm side of the thumb and fingers (although not the little finger), as well as impulses to some small muscles in the hand that allow the fingers and thumb to move. The carpal tunnel - a narrow, rigid passageway of ligament and bones at the base of the hand ¾ houses the median nerve and tendons. Sometimes, thickening from irritated tendons or other swelling narrows the tunnel and causes the median nerve to be compressed. The result may be pain, weakness, or numbness in the hand and wrist, radiating up the arm. Although painful sensations may indicate other conditions, carpal tunnel syndrome is the most common and widely known of the entrapment neuropathies in which the body's peripheral nerves are compressed or traumatized.

Symptoms of CTS
  • Frequent burning, tingling, or itching numbness in the palm of the hand and the fingers, especially the thumb, index, and middle fingers

  • Gradual development

  • Sharp pain radiating to arm

  • Sleeping with flexed wrists

  • Decreased grip strength

  • Desensitized to temperature by touch

Causes of CTS

CTS is often the result of a combination of factors that increase pressure on the median nerve and tendons in the carpal tunnel, rather than a problem with the nerve itself. Most likely the disorder is due to a congenital predisposition - the carpal tunnel is simply smaller in some people than in others. Other contributing factors include trauma or injury to the wrist that cause swelling, such as sprain or fracture; overactivity of the pituitary gland; hypothyroidism; rheumatoid arthritis; mechanical problems in the wrist joint; work stress; repeated use of vibrating hand tools; fluid retention during pregnancy or menopause; or the development of a cyst or tumor in the canal. In some cases no cause can be identified.

There is little clinical data to prove whether repetitive and forceful movements of the hand and wrist during work or leisure activities can cause carpal tunnel syndrome. Repeated motions performed in the course of normal work or other daily activities can result in repetitive motion disorders such as bursitis and tendonitis. Writer's cramp - a condition in which a lack of fine motor skill coordination and ache and pressure in the fingers, wrist, or forearm is brought on by repetitive activity - is not a symptom of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Who is at risk of developing CTS?

Women are three times more likely than men to develop CTS, perhaps because the carpal tunnel itself may be smaller in women than in men. The dominant hand is usually affected first and produces the most severe pain. Persons with diabetes or other metabolic disorders that directly affect the body's nerves and make them more susceptible to compression are also at high risk. CTS usually occurs only in adults. How can chiropractic treat carpal tunnel syndrome?

At Murphy Frazier Chiropractic & Laser in San Diego, we offer comprehensive treatments that check for any nerve interference from the spine or shoulder. We also address posture – an important factor in the development of carpal tunnel syndrome – that can cause a direct effect on the brachial plexus (an arrangement of nerve fibers running from the spine, through the neck, and into the arm) that can interfere with the function of the median nerve. We also work directly on the tendons and muscles of the forearm and hand, releasing adhesions that reduce pressure on the median nerve as well as allowing the median nerve to glide back into place. 

We are the only practitioners in San Diego to utilize an amazing Class IV laser to reduce immediate swelling and pain. The laser is completely pain-free and has no negative side effects. We also offer therapeutic exercises and stretching techniques to help you keep the results that you achieve.

Recurrence of CTS following our treatment is very rare, and the majority of patients recover completely. Contact us today for a consultation with one of our doctors. 

Information sourced from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).

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