Carpal tunnel syndrome is a health condition which affects hand, finger, and wrist. This nerve disorder is the reason why 4% of the population suffers from chronic hand pain and tingling.
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome:
- Difficulty gripping
- Loss of hand function
- Pins and needles sensation
- Mild occasionalnumbness
Usually, the night is the time when these symptoms get worse. You can relieve them by shaking or flicking your hands. The carpal tunnel syndrome can progress and cause muscle mass loss and permanent damage of the muscle and nerve.
What is the cause of carpal tunnel syndrome?
The wrist bones on three sides and a ligament in the fourth form the carpal tunnel which is found on the palm side of the hand, at the wrist. The nerves which provide feeling and muscle function in the hand, known as median nerves, run through the tunnel. The impulse of the nerves can be blocked or slowed down by swollen tissues or some compresses.
The pressure on the median nerve can be caused by some activities which usually include forceful grasping and repetitive bending of the wrist. They can cause swelling, thickening, or irritation of the membranes surrounding the tendons in the carpal tunnel.
Poor posture, working with wrist extended and excess typing at computer are some of the most common causes of carpal tunnel, according to Dr Axe. Also, it is believed that carpal tunnel can be related to obesity, hypothyroidism, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, diabetes mellitus, particular autoimmune diseases, and migraines.
Other risk factors of carpal tunnel syndrome are pregnancy, age, and female gender.
Useful tips to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome:
- Avoid vibrating tools whenever possible and choose tools with pistol-grips over the straight-handle tools.
- Relax your grip. Do not hold onto things too strenuously.
- Wear fingerless glover to keep your hands warm if you can’t raise the temperature in your environment.
- Take a rest from repetitious hand movements.
- When you’re using a computer, adjust the height of your chair to allow your forearms to level with your keyboard and mouse in order to prevent your wrist to flex.
- Do not bend your wrist all the way up or down.
- Do not rest your wrists on hard surfaces for long.
- Choose thick pens with soft, oversized grips and free-flowing ink to write
How to diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome
Physical examination of the hand and wrist is the first thing you need to do. Or if you start feeling some of the carpal tunnel symptoms, you need to do additional testing.
Placing small electrode on the skin in order to generate a mild electrical current so it can stimulate the nerve is the way how the nerve conduction examination is done. The impulse will be measured in the hand and it will take longer time for the impulse to get to the hand if there is some damage of the median nerve.
Electromyography is the next test that you can do. It is a test done by inserting a small needle into the muscle to measure the impulse. It measures the degree of abnormal function of the muscle which is supplied by the median nerve. And, if the muscle does not perform normally, the nerve is compressed severely.
In order too identify the swelling of the median nerve and deformities of the tunnel wall, including its content and the surrounding area like an inflamed tendons you can use ultrasound and MRI.
Treating carpal tunnel syndrome conventionally
Some of the medications which are used to relieve the symptoms in conventional treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome are acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory. Cortisone injection is another way which can help to relieve the symptoms temporarily. To reduce the pressure in the median nerve, it is recommended remedy such securing the wrist with splints at night which will keep the wrist straight.
If these treatments do not give you the positive results, a surgeon can open the tunnel to relieve the pressure on the median nerves by performing carpal tunnel release surgery. And, the symptoms rarely occur again (in less than 5% of the surgery patients) after this surgery. However, the surgery increases the risk of injuring the nerves and tendons.
Treating carpal tunnel syndrome naturally
If other treatments are not effective in treating carpal tunnel syndrome, surgery may be the last option. But, however, you can always try these natural therapies before you decide to go on a surgery.
Low-level laser therapy
You can reduce swelling, pain, and inflammation by this therapy. Also, this therapy can help in speeding up the healing process of the wounds, deeper tissues, and nerves.
Low-level laser can decrease oxidative stress and improve cellular function by using a non-thermal photon of light which can penetrate the skin deeply and stimulate the release of ATP.
According to some studies, laser therapy can reduce tingling and numbness, improve the nerve conduction and electromyography test result, improve grip strength, reduce numbness and tingling, and ease the pain. When it comes to treating mild-to moderate carpal tunnel syndrome this method proved to be as effective as surgery.
Low-level laser therapy can be used to help in nerve regeneration and effectively relieve pain, claim the researchers from Harvard Medical School. It takes only a few minutes to perform this treatment which is painless and will not cause any side effects. During the first few weeks, it is recommended to be done frequently.
Chiropractors, naturopathic doctors, and MD are using low-level laser therapy.
According to many studies, vitamin B6 is significantly effective in improving the carpal tunnel syndrome. This vitamin contributes in some metabolic pathways that involve the nerve function.
When it comes to treating carpal tunnel syndrome, the recommended daily dose of vitamin B6 is 100-150mg. A recent study showed that if you take 120mg of vitamin B6 every day, for 3 months you can reduce tingling, pain, clumsiness in handling objects, weakness, and numbness.
The effectiveness of vitamin B6 can be increased by some other B vitamins. For instance, riboflavin (vitamin B2) can convert vitamin B6 into pyridoxal 5′-phosphate, its more active form. Vitamin B12 is very important for the function of nerve.
To relieve the carpal tunnel syndrome it is recommended to take B-complex vitamin. Take the vitamins for 3 months. Take the B6 vitamin in a combination with B-complex. The total daily dose should be 100-150mg. It is very important not to take more than 200mg of vitamin B6. You need to lower the dose of vitamin B6 to 50mg a day, after you feel some improvement.
Alpha Lipoic Acid and GLA
You can add alpha lipoic acid with either curcumin phytosome or gamma linolenic acid (GLA) if taking B vitamin does not relieve the carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms.
Alpha lipoic acid has neuroprotective and antioxidant properties. It has the ability to reduce nerve sensitivity to pain. Also, you can take GLA as a supplement. It contains anti-inflammatory properties and is one of the essential fatty acids and a major constituent of cell membranes.
According to a study, you can significantly improve symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome by taking a combination of GLA (360 mg per day) and alpha lipoic acid (600 mg per day).
Curcumin can be very effective in relieving the pain due to its powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties.
You can reduce the pain by taking a combination of B vitamins (low doses), alpha lipoic acid (300 mg twice daily) curcumin phytosome (500 mg twice daily). Take this combination 3 months before and after carpal tunnel surgery.
Some Other Alternatives
You can improve carpal tunnel symptoms by acupuncture and various massage types or physical techniques such as stretching, exercise, joint and soft tissue mobilization.
Recommended Foods for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Whole fruits and vegetables – This food is very effective in treating inflammation and moreover, it provides healing due to the many nutrients in its content.
Water – To relieve the pain and decrease fluid retention you need to drink at least 8 oz of water every 2 hours.
Flax or chia seeds – Flax or chia seeds will help you to reduce the inflammation because they contain omega-3.
Foods high in B6 – Carpal tunnel syndrome can be caused by deficiency of vitamin B6. So, make sure to include in your diet green leafy vegetables, wild meats, and beans.
Green drinks – You can reduce the inflammation with sea vegetables and green drinks which are rich in nutritious grasses.
Foods to Avoid in Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Sugar – Your inflammation will be increased, thus increasing the pain.
Sodium – Fluid retention increases swelling so make sure to limit the sodium intake.
Foods high in saturated fat – You need to avoid bacon, sausage, cheese, or other high fat processed meats because saturated fat can slow down circulation.
Alcohol – Alcohol can reduce the amount of B vitamins in the body and increase systemic inflammation.
Processed grains, especially gluten – The consumption of grains can cause inflammation and increase the pain.
You should not take the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome lightly as long term nerve and muscle damage may occur due to long-lasting nerve compression.
If you think you have carpal tunnel syndrome, visit your local healthcare provi e the symptoms. You can also ass alpha lipoic acid if the symptoms do not get better after 2 – 3 months.