The hand and wrist have a total of 27 bones arranged to roll, spin and slide, allowing the hand to explore and control the environment and objects. The wrist is formed from eight small bones collectively called carpal bones. The intricate movements of the hand and wrist separate us from all other primates. The dexterity of these complex movements can be the reason for virtuoso concert performances to 100 mph fastballs. Only when we experience an injury or dysfunction in the upper extremity do we really understand how much we depend on this vital structure. This is no truer than with the hand and wrist, which provide a near-infinite amount of fine motor movements and provide our brain and nervous system with an endless supply of sensory information.
The carpal tunnel is a significant component of why the wrist and hand operate as they do. This structure is formed by a large band of tissue that wraps around the wrist. Underneath this tissue are muscle tendons that extend to the fingers, blood vessels, and the median nerve. The median nerve controls most of the muscle movements of the thumb, index, and middle fingers, allowing us to maintain our grip strength, which is necessary for various activities of daily living. When there is dysfunction or inflammation within the carpal tunnel, the fluid inside can increase the pressure on the median nerve, causing symptoms such as numbness, tingling, and pain in the hand and fingers. This is known as carpal tunnel syndrome.
Commonly, carpal tunnel syndrome is treated medically with a combination of medications, steroid injections, and, if those are unsuccessful, surgery. These types of treatments can bring unwanted side effects. The good news is there are ways to treat carpal tunnel syndrome conservatively. At Barley Wellness in Fairhaven, MA, we use a combination of many different treatments to address the underlying cause of your problem and help you heal in a natural, safe way.
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$49 Complete Carpal Tunnel Health Screening
How Our Carpal Tunnel Care Plan Works
We Will Tell You If We Can Help
A chiropractor will also let you know if we can’t help and advise or refer you to a health care provider that can. We do a thorough complimentary consultation and, if we can help, a comprehensive examination that may include x-rays or other diagnostics.
A Customized Treatment Plan
We use the data collected from our consultation and examination and provide you with a written Report of Findings that your chiropractor explains. We will design a customized care plan that reflects your unique body and situation.
Get Back to Your Life
We initially expect your pain to subside quickly and your overall function and health to undergo correction. A chiropractor works to correct the underlying cause of the problem to fix that “leaky” roof, rather than just place buckets to collect the water.
Carpal Tunnel Symptoms
- Numbness, tingling, burning, and pain — primarily in the thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers. This often wakes people up at night.
- Occasional shock-like sensations radiating to the thumb and index, middle, and ring fingers can disrupt workflow and simple daily life.
- Pain or tingling that may travel up the forearm toward the shoulder.
- Weakness and clumsiness in the hand may make it difficult to perform fine movements such as buttoning your clothes.
- Dropping things due to weakness, numbness, or a loss of proprioception (awareness of where your hand is in space).
Who is Most at Risk for Developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Frequent computer use, typing for hours a day, causes tension in the carpal tunnel. This repetitive typing motion, hour after hour, day after day, week after week, and year after year, can create tension and inflammation in the carpal tunnel. Improper ergonomics or desk and computer and body positioning can exacerbate these stresses.
Meat and Fish Processing Workers
Highly repetitive flexing and extending of the wrist, along with heavy lifting in a colder environment, can cause carpal tunnel syndrome.
Diabetes, a metabolic condition, causes swelling and inflammation. This inflammation can get trapped under the carpal tunnel producing diabetic neuropathy, another possible cause of carpal tunnel.
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How We Treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in Fairhaven, MA
Consultation and Exam
As a new patient, your first visit will consist of a consultation and examination. Before beginning care, your doctor wants to get to know you and understand your problem. We will review your history of discomfort, how long it has affected you, and how the problem impacts your life. Many people with carpal tunnel syndrome have difficulty working, especially if their work involves extensive computer use. This information helps your doctor understand you and ensures that the best recommendations for fixing the problem will be given to you.
After the consultation, your doctor will do a detailed exam in which orthopedic, neurologic, and functional movement testing will be performed. This will help the doctor understand your condition and what the root of the problem is. A consult and examination give us a broader picture of what is going on and help the doctor customize your treatment plan to serve you best and get you back to doing the things that are important to you.
At Barley Wellness in Fairhaven, MA, we are dedicated to providing exceptional care for pregnant patients. Our experienced chiropractors understand the unique challenges and discomforts that can arise during pregnancy and offer safe and effective treatment options. Through chiropractic adjustments, the Webster Technique, prenatal massage therapy, custom exercise plans, and comprehensive care, we strive to support pregnant patients in achieving a more comfortable and enjoyable pregnancy journey. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and experience the benefits of chiropractic care during your pregnancy.
Specific Carpal Tunnel Physical Examination
The doctors at Barley Wellness will carefully examine your hand and wrist and perform a number of physical tests. During these tests, your doctor may:
- Press down or tap along the median nerve on the palm side of your wrist and hand to see if it causes any tingling in your fingers (Tinel’s sign).
- Bend and hold your wrists in a flexed position to test for numbness or tingling in your hands.
- Test sensitivity in your fingertips and hands by lightly touching them with a special instrument while your eyes are closed.
- Check for weakness in the muscles around the base of your thumb.
- Look for atrophy in the muscles around the base of your thumb. In severe cases, these muscles may become visibly smaller.
These tests will determine whether the problem arises from your carpal tunnel OR your cervical spine. The neck is where the nerves that innervate the hand and wrist originate. If there is irritation there, then no work on the wrist alone will help the issue. We must get to the source of your carpal tunnel syndrome, and our complete consultation and examination does that.
Specific Chiropractic Care
As chiropractors, we always look to the spine for the source of dysfunction. Even though carpal tunnel syndrome is a uniquely specific problem to the wrist, the cervical spine must be checked, as well as the shoulder and elbow for any nerve impingements. Chiropractors are trained to evaluate and trmeaning many tiny joints are there. If any of those joints are restricted, or if the bones are not positioned correctly, this can contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome occurring in the first place. Utilizing gentle manipulations of the wrist, chiropractors can release these restrictions and re-establish alignment of the carpal bones that make up the wrist. These adjustments improve range of motion, decrease pain, and boost the body’s ability to heal from this problem.
Soft Tissue Work
Another critical component of treating carpal tunnel syndrome is helping the muscles to function more optimally. At our office, we do this through different types of muscle work. Remember, inflammation can have a negative affect on the many muscle tendons passing through the carpal tunnel. The muscle bellies are in the forearm closer to the elbow, but the tendons are long and travel through the carpal tunnel to the fingertips. Utilizing muscle work can help alleviate muscle tightness and tension and help restore normal function. Non-instrument and instrument-assisted myofascial work used by the doctors at Barley Wellness to alleviate muscle, fascial, and tendon adhesions and dysfunction significantly improves carpal tunnel syndrome and, more importantly, removes the muscle-component dysfunction thus allowing for long-term results.
Ultrasound therapy applied to the wrist may induce an anti-inflammatory effect that could relieve carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms. A study by Ebenbichler and colleagues conducted a controlled clinical trial to evaluate the use of ultrasound therapy in patients with mild to moderate bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. It was concluded that ultrasound therapy provides good short-term relief of symptoms in patients with moderate carpal tunnel syndrome and that the beneficial effects persist for at least six months.
Alpha-Stim is a non-drug, FDA-cleared medical device that is a painless, easy-to-use therapy utilized at Barley Wellness and also available for home use. It is fast-acting and has long-lasting cumulative effects. Alpha-Stim works by restoring natural balance to an injured area using a painless, electrical microcurrent waveform. This patented waveform allows your body’s cells to return to their normal functioning state.
It is no secret that our bodies heal best through movement. This is why we will recommend therapeutic exercise in many carpal tunnel syndrome cases to further assist in the healing process. This corrective exercise seeks to re-establish balance in the particular region, which usually involves strengthening and stabilizing certain areas while stretching and loosening others. These exercises improve function in the affected region, which in this case is the wrist and upper extremity. As part of your care, not only will you be doing exercises with our trainer in the office, but you will also be given home exercises that you must do to maximize results.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a chiropractor do anything about carpal tunnel syndrome?
Yes, the chiropractors at Barley Wellness have helped many people address the root cause of their carpal tunnel syndrome and eliminate their symptoms. The right combination of chiropractic, soft tissue work, exercise, and ergonomic re-education can help restore normal function and correct this common and frustrating condition.
What helps carpal tunnel syndrome heal faster?
One of the ways we help treat carpal tunnel quickly is by utilizing Alpha-Stim. Alpha-Stim is a non-drug, FDA-cleared medical device that is painless and easy-to-use. It works by restoring natural balance to an injured area using electrical microcurrent waveform. This patented waveform allows your body’s cells to return to their normal functioning state and accelerates the healing process by clearing out inflammation and fostering tissue healing. In combination with other treatments, Alpha-Stim is highly effective for getting quick results for carpal tunnel syndrome.
What happens if carpal tunnel syndrome goes untreated?
If left untreated, carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms will get more intense and frequent. As pressure continues to affect the median nerve, over time it is possible to begin to lose function of that nerve. This, in turn, can cause muscle weakness and atrophy, something that can take a very long time to recover from. It is essential to address your carpal tunnel problem as early as possible to ensure you can recover as well as possible.
Is heat or ice better for carpal tunnel syndrome?
Ice. Utilizing heat will attract more inflammation and more fluid to the site, which could worsen your carpal tunnel symptoms. Ice will help clear inflammation away from the site, decreasing pressure and alleviating the symptoms. Avoid using heat if you have carpal tunnel syndrome!
Can you heal carpal tunnel syndrome without surgery?
Yes! At Barley Wellness, we have several treatment modalities to help ensure you have a safe, natural recovery from this condition. Surgery is invasive and comes with risks. At a minimum, conservative measures should be taken first, as they are often just as effective at fixing the problem.