Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is very common condition with symptoms that can vary from periodic tingling in the fingers to a debilitating disorder that can stop activities at home and work. The cause is usually gradual due to repeated movements, especially fast-paced motions such as prolonged practicing of a musical instrument, typing, various hobbies (knitting or crocheting, for example), as well as fast-paced and/or firm gripping when assembling products on an assembly line. Initially, symptoms can include tingling or numbness that gradually increases in frequency, intensity, and duration followed by a weakness in pinch and/or grip.
Because the symptoms can slowly and gradually appear, most people wait a while —sometimes years—before seeking treatment for CTS. It is important to recognize the initial signs of CTS so you can properly manage the condition AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE. Early treatment may be minimal and may only require learning proper exercises or making minor activity modifications.
The following is a list of symptoms that should warn you to seek treatment for CTS: sleep interruptions due to numb hands/fingers (usually the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th fingers), the need to shake or flick your fingers, numbness while holding onto the steering wheel, difficulty in buttoning clothing, dropping objects/weak grip or pinch, age over 50 (with these symptoms), and others. Conditions such as diabetes, thyroid disease, obesity, or pregnancy can all increase your risk for CTS, as can taking hormone replacement/birth control pills.
When you consult with a doctor of chiropractic, he or she will conduct a thorough history and physical exam to determine if you are a candidate for non-surgical care. Along with restoring motion to the joints affected by the condition, treatment may include advice on sleep (such as the use of a wrist splint at night), job/work station modifications (include working with your employer, if necessary), teaching of exercises so you can help yourself in the treatment process, and other educational approaches to aid you in the future should the condition return.
In addition to the wrist, your doctor may also check your elbow, shoulder, and neck to see if dysfunction in these areas may also contribute to your symptoms and require treatment.
Most importantly, don’t wait too long after symptoms start! The sooner you start care, the more likely you can experience a successful outcome.