What if there were safe and natural therapies to help alleviate the pain, numbness and tingling associated with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)? Well, it turns out there are! However, before discussing how treat CTS, it’s important to first understand what it is.
The Carpal Tunnel is an oval shaped tunnel created by the Carpal bones (wrist bones) on the back and the Transverse Carpal Ligament on the front. Within the Carpal Tunnel lies multiple tendons and the Median Nerve. The Median Nerve provides sensation to the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and outer half of the ring finger. From things like poor ergonomics on a keyboard the Carpal Tunnel can constrict and compress on the Median Nerve. Furthermore, inflammatory conditions like Diabetes can cause the tendons in the Carpal Tunnel to get inflammed which also creates a compression on the Median Nerve. When the Median Nerve gets compressed in the Carpal Tunnel it can cause pain, burning, numbness and/or tingling along the course of the Median Nerve in the hand (Thumb to outer half of the ring finger).
If you have symptoms in your hand(s) it is EXTREMELY important to know whether or not it is indeed CTS causing it. A very big clue to help determine this is where you feel your symptoms. If you feel your symptoms throughout your entire hand including the pinky finger then there is a good chance it’s not CTS, but rather a metabolic condition like Diabetic Neuropathy (remember, the Median nerve does not innervate the pinky finger). It is also possible to have a pinched nerve in the elbow or neck that could cause symptoms in the hand(s). This is where a doctor’s examination and questioning can help her/him differentiate where the pinching of the nerve is. If your doctor diagnoses you with CTS, make sure that both you and your doctor are very clear as to why it’s CTS opposed to the many other causes of symptoms in the hand. It’s very unfortunate, the number of people I’ve seen that had CTS surgery and didn’t get better because they didn’t actually have CTS to begin with.
Once you’ve confirmed that it is CTS that you have, there are several natural therapies that have been shown in research to help alleviate the condition. Wearing a splint around your wrist can help to keep the Carpal Tunnel open and keep pressure off the Median Nerve. Ultrasound can heat up the Transverse Carpal Ligament causing it to be more lax and reduce pressure inside1. Getting a keyboard designed for people with CTS as well as doing stretches that help to open the Carpal Tunnel can both help as well. If you have an inflammatory condition like Diabetes, then eating a healthy antiinflammatory diet is very important.
These safe and non-invasive approaches should be the initial form of therapy and will work for most people. If none of these conservative approaches work, then it may make sense to investigate steroid injections and/or surgery.
Kiokkari et al. Effectiveness of surgical versus conservative treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome: A systematic review, meta-analysis and qualitative analysis. Hong Kong Physiother J. 2018 Dec;38(2):91-114.