Tunnels. They help us get from Point A to Point B. There are well known road tunnels such as the Lincoln Tunnel in NYC, or the longest tunnel in the world -- The Laerdal Tunnel in Norway.
What is the Carpal Tunnels’ claim to fame? The Carpal Tunnel serves as a passageway from the wrist to the hand. The main traffic in this tunnel is the median nerve. The median nerve needs to go from point A to point B in order to supply muscles, and provide sensation to the thumb, index finger, middle finger and the thumb side of the ring finger.
Traffic jams can happen in the carpal tunnel, similar to what we experience during rush hour. Road work crews are there to clean up the mess and get things moving. The body also comes equipped with its own clean up crew. However when traffic jams begin to compress the median nerve, the body road work crew needs a bit of outside help.
Signs To Pay Attention To:
When you are on a winding road and a sign says to take the curve at lesser speed limit, you obey so that you don’t fly off the side of the road. When it comes to carpal tunnel pay attention to the following signs and if encountered have a strategy, similar to slowing down, so you can help your symptoms.
- Numbness and tingling
- Pain in the hand and wrist
- Atrophy of hand muscles
- Loss of grip strength
- Pain at night
- Burning sensation
- Fingers feel swollen
Who is at risk?
- Women: it’s true that women are more likely to develop carpal tunnel because the tunnel itself may be smaller
- Dominant Hand: Wear and tear is increased
- Repetitive motions: this can be from assembly workers, desk workers and even from an exercise program.
It is important to pay attention to how you use your body to perform various tasks throughout the day. Always consult with a regulated health care professional! With that said, the power that made the body, heals the body.
Here is a list of what you can try on your own to help your carpal tunnel:
Remedies To Try
- Foam rolling: is a muscle release technique used to aid in recovery of muscles that are prone to being overactive. A foam roller is an inexpensive way to treat your muscles in the comfort of your own home. You use the foam roller over a specific muscle with your body weight. It can be painful but it is very effective in lengthening your muscles, breaking adhesions and scar tissue, which are sources of pain.
- Splinting: We tend to sleep with our wrists flexed and this can continue to compress the median nerve. The pressure is lowest with the wrist in neutral position. The stiff metal support which gives these devices rigidity should be bent specifically to fit YOUR wrist and should be arched over the carpal tunnel area itself so that it does not apply direct pressure to the median nerve from outside. Most designs of splint allow you to remove the metal piece for adjustment and replace it once it is the right shape.
- Ergonomics: Everyone needs to be aware of how they are completing tasks. Neutral postures should be more automatic. Practicing neutral postures does not take away from efficiency. When the body is strong, you get more done.
- B6: For carpal tunnel syndrome, studies suggest taking 200 milligrams of vitamin B6 daily. Research states that lower B6 blood levels are associated with a higher prevalence of carpal tunnel syndrome such as as tingling, wrist/hand pain, and nocturnal awakening (Keniston 1997). Several additional trials have reported that supplementation with 50-200 mg/day of vitamin B6 resulted in fewer CTS symptoms, less pain, and better nerve conduction (Gaby 2011; Bernstein 1993).
- Stretching: Stretching helps to alleviate pressure on the median nerve. By keeping muscles and tendons elongated there is less likelihood that the median nerve will get compressed by surrounding anatomy. Stretching also combats the effects of repetitive motions. The body does need a break and stretching is something that we can’t do too much of.
It is always important to be evaluated by a regulated health care professional, even if your symptoms begin to subside. These solutions are something you can add to your holistic first aid kit and continue to use. It's always better to be safe than sorry and a health care professional can guide you further and keep you on the right track.
Carpal tunnel affects more than 5 million Americans each year. You don't have to live with pain, don’t ignore your symptoms!
Dr. Rubina Tahir, DC