Carpal tunnel syndrome is health issue that affected wrist, hand and finger. One of the most common reason for people to visit their doctor. Nearly 4% of the population suffer from number, chronic hand pain, and tingling which is caused by this nerve disorder.
Common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome
Syndrome of carpal tunnel syndrome can be varied including the following:
- Mild occasionalnumbness
- Difficulty gripping
- Pins and needles sensation
- Loss of hand function
These symptom usually get worse at night and sometimes can be relieved by flicking or shaking the hands. Though carpal tunnel syndrome can get better on its own, it can also progress and cause the loss of muscle mass and permanent nerve and muscle damage.
What is the cause of carpal tunnel syndrome?
Located at the wrist on the palm side of the hand, carpal tunnel is formed by wrist bones on three sides and a ligament in the fourth. The median nerves, the one that provide muscle function and feeling in the hand, run through the tunnel. Nerves impulse can be slowed down or blocked from flowing through the nerve is the median nerve is squeeze by swollen tissues or either compresses in some other way.
Though the exact cause of this compression are rarely known, some activities can put pressure on the median nerve. Those activities that includes repetitive bending of the wrist and forceful grasping may cause irritation, swelling or thickening of the membranes around the tendons in the carpal tunnel.
Dr. Axe stated that some of most common causes of carpal tunnel are poor posture, working with wrist extended and excess typing at computer. Carpal tunnel also associated with certain conditions like arthritis, obesity, diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, migraines, metabolic syndrome, particular autoimmune diseases and a history of trauma to the wrist. Female gender, age, and pregnancy are also some other well-known risk factor of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Below are some useful tips to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome:
- Do not bend your wrist all the way up or down.
- Do not hold onto things too strenuously. Relax your grip.
- Choose thick pens with oversized, soft grips and free-flowing ink to write
- Choose tools with pistol-grips over the straight-handle tools. Also, avoid vibrating tools whenever possible.
- Avoid to rest your wrists on hard surfaces for long.
- 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.
Wear fingerless glover to keep your hands warm if you can’t raise the temperature in your environment.
How to diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome
The first step is to do physical examination of the hand and wrist. However, this you can’t just rely on this examination alone. But if you found a sign of carpal tunnel syndrome, then additional testing should be done.
Nerve conduction examination is done by placing small electrode on the skin to generate a mild electrical current to stimulate the nerve. The impulse will be measured in the hand. If the median nerve is damaged, it will take longer for the impulse to get to the hand.
The next to be done test is usually electromyography which measure the degree of abnormal function of the muscle which is supplied by the median nerve. To do this examination, a small needle is inserted into the muscle to measure to impulse. When the muscle doesn’t perform normally, it means the nerve is severely compressed.
MRI and ultrasound may also be used to identify the swelling of the median nerve and abnormalities of the tunnel wall, including its content and the surrounding area like an inflamed tendons.
Treating carpal tunnel syndrome conventionally
Acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are some medications to relieve the symptoms that can be used in conventional treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome. Remedy like splinting the wrist at night is recommended to reduce the pressure in the median nerve by keeping the wrist straight. Another way to relieve the symptoms temporarily is cortisone injection.
When the above treatment don’t yield the expected result, a surgeon can perform carpal tunnel release surgery and open the tunnel to relive the pressure on the median nerves. After the surgery, the symptoms rarely occur again. Though some people do experience it, it only happen in less than 5% of the surgery patients. Usually carpal tunnel syndrome can be solve with surgery. However, there are risk for this practice including injury to tendons and nerves.
Treating carpal tunnel syndrome naturally
Surgery might be the last option to treat carpal tunnel syndrome successfully when other conventional treatment didn’t work. But before you decide to do the surgery, try to look at these natural therapies for carpal tunnel syndrome.
Low-level laser therapy
This therapy can reduce inflammation, pain, and swelling. It can also speed up the healing process of the nerves, wounds, and deeper tissues.
Using a non-thermal photon of light to penetrate the skin deeply and stimulate the release of ATP, low-level laser can improve cellular function and decrease oxidative stress.
Some studies showed that laser therapy can relieve carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms like improve grip strength, reduce tingling and numbness, ease the pain, and improve nerve conduction and electromyography test result. This method was proven to be as effective as surgery to treat mild-to-moderate carpal tunnel syndrome.
According to researchers from Harvard Medical School, low-level laser therapy can be used to effectively relive pain and help in nerve regeneration. This treatment is free from side effect, painless, and only take a few minutes to perform, though it should be done frequently, especially during the first couple of weeks. Low-level laser therapy are currently used by many different kind of healthcare provider such as MD, chiropractors, and naturopathic doctors.
This vitamin contribute in some metabolic pathways that involves the nerve function. Many studies which has been conducted since 1980s have discovered that vitamin B6 can improve carpal tunnel syndrome effectively.
The advisable dose to use vitamin B6 to treat carpal tunnel syndrome is 100 – 150 mg per day. According to recent study, taking 120 mg of vitamin B6 every day for three months can decrease numbness, weakness, pain, tingling, and clumsiness in handling objects..
Some other B vitamins can also increase the effectiveness of vitamin B6. For example, vitamin B2 (riboflavin) can help in converting B6 into its more active form, pyridoxal 5′-phosphate. The combination of vitamin B2 and B6 can be very useful as shown in one case. Beside, vitamin B12 also important for the nerve function.
Taking B-complex vitamin is highly recommended to help carpal tunnel syndrome relief. You need to take the vitamins for at least three months before you can start see some result. Take the B-complex vitamin in combination with B6 vitamin in total dose of 100 – 150 mg per day. Do not take more than 200 mg of vitamin B6. After you see some improvement, you can lower the dose of vitamin B6 to 50 mg per day.
Alpha Lipoic Acid and GLA
If taking B vitamin doesn’t relieve the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, then you can try to add alpha lipoic acid with either curcumin phytosome or gamma linolenic acid (GLA).
Alpha lipoic acid is a powerful antioxidant that contains neuroprotective properties and a capacity to reduce nerve sensitivity to pain. GLA which is one of the essential fatty acids and a major constituent of cell membranes contains anti-inflammatory properties. You can take it as a supplement.
Study has showed that the combination of alpha lipoic acid (600 mg per day) and GLA (360 mg per day) and significantly improve symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, its function and nerve conduction test.
Curcumin which can be found in turmeric also contain significant antioxidant and neuroprotective effects. It is also known to be a potent anti-inflammatory which can help in relieving pain.
Taking a combination of curcumin phytosome (500 mg twice daily), alpha lipoic acid (300 mg twice daily), and B vitamins (low doses) taken for three months before and after carpal tunnel surgery can reduce pain at night after the surgery.
Some Other Alternatives
Acupuncture and many different kind of massage and physical techniques like stretching, exercise, joint and soft tissue mobilization can also improve carpal tunnel symptoms significantly compare to conventional treatment like NSAIDs and splinting. It could be more useful when combined with low-level laser therapy and supplementation.
Dr. Axe recommends the followings foods for treating carpal tunnel syndrome as well as which foods to avoid if you have it.
Recommended Foods for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Whole fruits and vegetables – This type of food provide your body with lots of nutrients from that can help in fighting inflammation and heal.
Water – Drink at least 8 oz of water every 2 hours to decrease fluid retention and relieve the pain.
Flax or chia seeds – Consuming a lot of omega-3 can help in reducing inflammation.
Foods high in B6 – Lack of vitamin B6 can cause carpal tunnel syndrome so you need to consume a lot of green leafy vegetables, beans, or wild meats in your diet.
Green drinks – Green drinks which are high in nutritious grasses and sea vegetables can help in reducing inflammation.
Foods to Avoid in Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Sugar – this can increases inflammation which will increase pain.
Sodium – You need to limit your sodium intake because fluid retention increases swelling.
Foods high in saturated fat – Saturated fa can slow down circulation. So avoid saturated fat from sources such as bacon, cheese, sausage, or other high fat processed meats.
Alcohol – Alcohol will increase systemic inflammation and reduce the amount of B vitamins in the body which is critical for healing.
Processed grains, especially gluten – Consuming grains will cause inflammation making pain even worse.
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 provider to start doing a series of treatment. During the process also consume high-dose of vitamin B6 and B-complex to relieve the symptoms. You can also ass alpha lipoic acid if the symptoms do not get better after 2 – 3 months.
Source: Family Life Goals