The infamous carpal tunnel syndrome is the main disfunction ocurring with wrists, hands and fingers. Actually, almost 4% of the world’s population experiences numbness, tingling and sore hands as a result of this disorder.
Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Loss of hand function
- Difficulty gripping
- Mild occasional numbness
- Pins and needles sensation
The symptoms are often relieved by flicking the hands and they tend to be worse at night. Even though this syndrome can get better over time, there is a risk of progressing and even causing permanent nerve and muscle damage.
What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
The carpal tunnel is located at the wrist of the palm and it is made up of wrist bones on three sides and a ligament of the fourth. This tunnel is actually the place where the median nerve travels through. The median nerve provides muscle function in the hand and when squeezed, the nerve impulses are blocked.
Even though the real cause of this compression is often unclear, it is believed that irritation of the membranes around the tendons in the carpal tunnel, repetitive bending of the wrist, and forceful grasping can put pressure on the nerve.
According to Dr. Axe, “The most common causes of carpal tunnel include poor posture, excess typing at the computer, and working with wrists extended.”
Moreover, there are certain conditions which are known risk factors, such as obesity, migraines, arthritis, hypothyroidism, diabetes mellitus, certain autoimmune diseases, history of trauma to the wrist, and metabolic syndrome. Pregnancy, female gender, and age are also considered risk factors.
Tips for Preventing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Pistol grips on tools are better than straight-handle tools. Avoid vibrating tools, if possible
- Don’t rest your wrists on hard surfaces for an extended period of time
- Take breaks from repetitive hand movements
- At a computer, adjust the height of your chair so that your forearms are level with your keyboard and mouse
- Keep your hands warm by wearing fingerless gloves if you can’t raise the temperature in your environment
- Avoid bending your wrist all the way up or down
- Relax your grip
- Write with thick pens with oversized, soft grips
Diagnosis of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Given the fact that physical examination of the hand is not reliable, additional testing is often obligatory.
1. Nerve Conduction Testing
This testing involves a small electrode placed onto the skin, generating electrical current and stimulating the nerve. This method measures the impulse in the hand and if it takes longer to get to the hand, it indicates damage of the median nerve.
This test measures the degree of abnormal function of the muscles which are provided by the median nerve. It involves use of a tiny needle which measures the impulse, indicating whether the muscle performs normally if not. If the nerve is compressed, the muscle won`t perform properly.
3. Ultrasound and MRI
These tests are used to determine the swelling of the median nerve and certain abnormalities of the tunnel wall and its contents.
Conventional Treatment of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The conventional treatment of this syndrome involves the use of anti-inflammatory drugs, cortisone infections, and splinting the wrist to reduce pressure on the median nerve.
Carpal tunnel release surgery is another option which involves opening of the tunnel to relieve pressure on the nerve. This surgery mostly has positive outcomes and less than 5 percent of the patients experience reoccurrence of the symptoms.
Natural Treatments for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
In addition to the conventional treatments, there are natural treatments available as well. Among them are:
1. Low-level laser therapy
This therapy reduces inflammation, pain and swelling, and it also encourages healing of nerves, wounds and deeper tissues.
It involves use of non-thermal photons of light to penetrate into the skin and stimulate the release of ATP, which in turn reduces oxidative stress and improves cellular function.
It has been scientifically shown that laser therapy improves grips strength, improves nerve conduction, alleviates pain, and reduces tingling and numbness.
According to researchers from Harvard Medical School, “low-level laser therapy can be used effectively for nerve regeneration and pain relief.” The treatments take only a couple of minutes; don’t provide any side effects and are painless.
2. Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 affects metabolic pathways involving nerve function and it usually 100-150 mg of B6 on a daily basis leads to positive results. According to a recent study, 120 mg daily over the course of three months reduced pain, tingling, weakness, clumsiness, and numbness.
Addition of other B vitamins enhances the effectiveness of vitamin B6. For example, vitamin B12 helps convert B6 into pyridoxal 5’-phosphate.
It is recommended to take a B-complex vitamin two times a day along with extra vitamin B6, but nothing more than 200mg of B6 daily. Take these vitamins over the course of three months before measuring the results.
4. Alpha Lipoic Acid and GLA
Alpha lipoic acid is a strong antioxidant with ability to nerve sensitivity to pain. On the other hand, GLA is an essential fatty acid which acts as powerful anti-inflammatory agent. It is recommended to supplement combining alpha lipoic acid (600 mg per day) and GLA (360 mg per day).
Curcumin is scientifically shown to relieve pain and provide strong anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and antioxidant properties. It has been found that combination of alpha lipoic acid (300 mg twice daily), curcumin phytosome (500 mg twice daily), and B vitamins (low doses) taken for three months before and after carpal tunnel surgery significantly reduced nighttime pain after surgery.
Various therapies and massages, such as stretching, exercises, and soft tissue mobilization improve carpal tunnel syndrome. For optimal results, combine them with supplementation or low-level laser therapy.
Top Foods for Carpal Tunnel
Foods high in B6: Consume more B6-rich foods, such as beans, wild meats, and green leafy vegetables as Vitamin B6 deficiency can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome
Green drinks: Any green drink which contains highly nutritious grasses and sea vegetables can reduce inflammation
Whole fruits and vegetables: Nutrients from fruits and vegetables heal and help fight inflammation. Consume more foods rich in potassium to decrease fluid retention
Water: It is recommended to drink 8 oz of water every 2 hours to decrease fluid retention and relieve pain
Flax or chia seeds: Increase omega-3 intake to reduce inflammation
Carpal Tunnel Foods to Avoid
Foods high in saturated fat: Avoid saturated fat from bacon, sausage, cheese, or other high fat processed meats, as saturated fat can slow circulation
Alcohol: It increases systemic inflammation and reduces the amount of B vitamins in the body
Processed grains, especially gluten: Grains increase inflammation and worsen the condition
Sugar: Increases inflammation that can increase pain
Sodium: Sodium intake causes fluid retention and swelling