What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a very common condition that affects one of the main nerves in the hand, the median nerve. This nerve is squeezed or compressed, causing pain, numbness, and tingling in the hand. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when flexor tendons around the median nerve swell, putting pressure on the nerve. This pressure results in the pain, tingling, and burning sensation that many patients experience.
So What Causes Carpal Tunnel?
A variety of factors can contribute to the development of carpal tunnel, but one leading factor is the repetitive use of your hands. Working with tools, especially those that vibrate, often lead to carpal tunnel. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke said that often there is no definite cause of carpal tunnel. However, along with repetitive use, there are other variables that can cause the condition. A traumatic injury that causes swelling can put pressure on the median nerve and create carpal tunnel symptoms. Conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, an overactive pituitary gland or an underactive thyroid gland can all lead to carpal tunnel.
Who’s most likely to have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Almost anyone can develop carpal tunnel, depending on your activity level and use of your hands and wrists. Some groups are more susceptible than others. Women, who are three times as likely to suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, can develop it during pregnancy due to fluid build-up. More women may also be affected because they generally have a smaller carpal tunnel than men. Carpal tunnel syndrome is very common in industrial and assembly line jobs. The repetitive and mechanical nature of this industry puts those who work in it at a higher risk.
Those affected by carpal tunnel syndrome will typically experience similar symptoms in their hands and wrists, such as:
- Burning sensation
- Pain and tingling
- Feeling of swelling
Often these symptoms develop overnight and are experienced upon waking. As carpal tunnel progresses, they may persist throughout the day.
Traditionally, there are several surgical and non-surgical treatment options for those who have carpal tunnel syndrome. The Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons states that wearing a brace at night is one of the first steps for most people. This keeps your wrist straight, limiting the pressure on your median nerve. If the symptoms continue during the day, some will wear the brace or splint intermittently. Using anti-inflammatory drugs and changing activity level are two other steps to be taken for pain relief. Some patients resort to steroid injections and nerve gliding exercises.
For those whose symptoms continue with no relief, a doctor may recommend surgery. There are two options designed to relieve pressure on the median nerve; open carpal tunnel release and endoscopic carpal tunnel release.
Instead of these options, acupuncture is proving to be an effective way to combat the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
The Results are In — Acupuncture Helps Relieve Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
In a report released from July 2019, the Healthcare Medicine Institute cited recent studies that show the effectiveness of acupuncture as a treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome. 60 patients participated in a study at Qixia District Hospital. The treatment combined the use of acupuncture and herbs. Each of these patients were diagnosed with mild to moderate carpal tunnel syndrome. 95% of participants found the treatment effective, with 30 listed as recovered and 16 markedly recovered.
Another group at Zhejiang University of TCM conducted a study that combined a night splint on the wrist and warm needle acupuncture. 68.4% of those treated recovered or considered the treatment markedly effective.
In 2017 Time Magazine published an article about a study at Massachusetts General Hospital. 80 people who were diagnosed with mild to moderate carpal tunnel syndrome were treated with acupuncture. According to Time, carpal tunnel is an ideal condition to study because it creates measurable, physiological changes in the body. The patients were divided into three groups; one that received treatment on their affected arm, one on the opposite ankle of their affected arm, and the final group received sham acupuncture. Every group reported improvement, but only those with real acupuncture had measurable results. Those who had treatment at the wrists experienced brain re-mapping, as seen on an MRI, and had positive results over an extended period of time.
These studies prove that acupuncture is an effective treatment option for both short and long term results. It helps relieve chronic pain and treat the numbness and tingling sensation that so many carpal tunnel syndrome experience. If you’re looking for relief from carpal tunnel syndrome and are looking for options other than surgery, call The Acupuncture Clinic at 803-256-1000, to schedule a consultation and discuss treatment options.