Ask the Doctor—Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
By Anthony L. Rosner, PHD, Chiropractor
I have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in both hands, and my doctor is recommending surgery. Is there any chiropractic treatment that could help me avoid such drastic measures?
Though chiropractors may be best known for treating back and neck pain, their techniques also show promise in treating myriad other conditions, including carpal tunnel syndrome. A growing body of research over the past decade has shown that the body’s extremities—including the wrist—respond very well to manual therapy, which is the signature approach of chiropractic treatment.
In people with carpal tunnel syndrome, the median nerve in the wrist gets compressed because of repetitive stress—prolonged strain on the wrist when it is either extended or flexed. Common symptoms are numbness and tingling in the fingers and pain in the wrist, palm, or forearm. Carpal tunnel syndrome is very common, estimated to be the diagnosis in more than 60 percent of all occupational illnesses.
Chiropractic care goes to the root of the problem by manipulating the wrist to relieve pressure on joints and ligaments and on the carpal tunnel itself—the eight bones in the wrist called “carpals” that form a channel through which the nerve passes on its way to the hand. When this tunnel narrows, it constricts the nerve, causing the various symptoms. Chiropractic treatment is a noninvasive way to treat carpal tunnel syndrome without resorting to surgery.
At least three studies have shown that chiropractic manipulation improves pain, nerve functioning, and finger sensitivity, as well as physical and mental distress in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome. These results are comparable to what patients report after taking ibuprofen or corticosteroids, but chiropractic doesn’t include the possible side effects that come with those medications.
Other studies have also shown improvement in wrist inflammation with changes in diet and with exercise (stretching and strengthening) in conjunction with a chiropractor’s manual therapy.
The dietary changes included adding such supplements as vitamins B6 (pyridoxine) and B2 (riboflavin), bromelain (an enzyme from pineapples), and lipoic acid. The studies’ subjects reported pain relief as long as six months after treatment.
Even more impressive, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the carpal tunnel done before and after manipulation of the wrist showed that the treatment physically relieved compression—actually widening the diameter of the carpal tunnel—proof that the very cause of carpal tunnel syndrome had been corrected.