What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Original Post from Dr. Kody Au of Baseline Health and Wellness Inc.
What could be causing your hand numbness?
One of the greatest fears of an office worker is hand numbness because we all know that person who has had carpal tunnel syndrome and had to have surgery and possible switch careers due to the inability to type. Fortunately, there are a lot of different causes of hand numbness and they do not all lead down the path to surgery.
The hand numbness really depends on what part of the hand is numb as there are three nerves that give us our sensations in the hand. The median, radial and ulnar nerve. The median nerve supplies sensation to the palm and usually the first three and a half fingers (the green lines), the ulnar nerve also known as your “funny bone” supplies sensation to your fourth and fifth fingers on the palm and back of your hand (teal lines) and the radial nerve provides sensation to the back side of your hand and the back side of the first three and a half fingers.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
The carpal tunnel is an area in your wrist where the median nerve travels through. This specific tunnel is small in nature and compression on this area can lead to the median nerve being crushed in the process. If you look at a nerve as a water hose and compression on the nerve as someone stepping on the hose, this can show an example as to what is happening. The flow of the water is slowed by someone stepping on the hose and the flow of the nerve sensations of the median nerve are slowed due to the compression at the carpal tunnel.
How carpal tunnel is diagnosed?
The most accurate way to check is to have a nerve conduction study ordered by your family doctor. However, there are a few clues that can guide us to see if you actually have the classic signs of carpal tunnel.
1) Where is the numbness?
- Carpal tunnel typically on the affects the first three and a half fingers on the palm side of the hand and it can cause weakness in the grip. If the numbness is in the last two fingers or on the back side of the hand it is doubtful that it is carpal tunnel. Also, if your palm of your hand is numb this is likely not carpal tunnel but instead another syndrome that can be treated without surgery as well.
2) Can we create or intensify the symptoms through testing?
- This will typically be done by healthcare providers for example Chiropractors, Physiotherapists and Registered Massage Therapists. There are specific nerve tension tests that can be used for testing to see which of the three nerves of the arm are irritated which can help to figure out if it is even the median nerve that is the problem.
- Additionally, testing should be done to see where the cause of the nerve irritation is originating from. Since the nerves start from the neck and travel down the arm, there’s quite a few places that the nerve can be stuck or compressed that can lead to numbness symptoms so it should be the practitioners’ role to find out where it is compressed through orthopedic testing.
3) How did the numbness start?
- The history is a major component of diagnosing problems and so the carpal tunnel syndrome does not get a pass on this. A simple question of how did the numbness start can be a big clue as to ruling out if it is carpal tunnel syndrome or not. Carpal tunnel syndrome is typically a repetitive stress condition that is due to ongoing postures and positions that lead to compression into the wrist. So if the numbness comes on suddenly or due to a specific incident then the chances that it could be carpal tunnel syndrome are greatly decreased.
Why does carpal tunnel syndrome occur in pregnancy?
Carpal tunnel syndrome can occur more frequently during pregnancy because swelling is a common occurrence in pregnancy and since the carpal tunnel is such a small and compact area, any tightening of that space can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome to occur. For the pregnant clients, it is not recommended to go through any surgical interventions for carpal tunnel unless it is uncontrollable. Often times, once the childbirth has occurred the pregnancy related swelling decreases and the carpal tunnel syndrome also goes away.
In the meantime, it is suggested that pregnant women experiencing these symptoms can have a lot of relief and management of these symptoms by seeing conservative care practitioners such as our amazing team of Vancouver Chiropractors (Including Dr. Jenine McCann who specializes with pregnancy clients), our physiotherapists and registered massage therapists! Often times, some easy exercises, minor treatments and education can help to manage these conditions.
Here are a few exercises that you can try to decrease your symptoms.
Median Nerve Floss
For the Median Nerve Floss:
a. Bring your affected arm away and straight out to the side. Then bring the arm backwards so that it is behind you.
b. Look away from that hand and bring those fingers backwards, you may feel a strong stretch only hold for 1 second.
c. Look towards your hand and let your hand bend towards your head like you are looking into a mirror.
d. Repeat 10-15x.
Lacrosse Ball to Pec Muscle Mobility Work
For the Lacrosse Ball to Pec Muscle Mobility Work
1) Take a lacrosse or tennis ball and pin it between your chest and the corner of a wall or doorframe
2) Once you find a tender spot, flex your arm up towards your ear. Also move your arm to the side.
3) Work your way around your chest, searching for different areas that are sore
4) Repeat on different areas until you feel relief (suggested ~10 arm movements per spot).
As always, if you have any questions about your conditions and would like to schedule an appointment with us at Baseline Health and Wellness you can give us a call at 6046744027 or schedule online at www.baselinewellness.ca
Provided by Dr. Kody Au, Vancouver Chiropractor
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