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Can a Job Cause Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

7 Jan

Every career has its pros and cons when it comes to physical exertion, stress, work hours, the physical environment (temperature, cleanliness, etc.), and more. But when a worker develops carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), is it the job that’s the culprit or is there something else responsible for the patient’s symptoms?

Since we spend about a third of our time each week at work, it only makes sense that certain jobs are more likely to cause or exacerbate CTS. The current research shows that jobs that include the following factors have an elevated risk for repetitive stress injuries, like CTS: highly repetitive tasks; exposure to vibratory/percussive forces; and little-to-no down time or rest breaks.

Examples of careers associated with such factors include auto repair, landscaping, garment work, computer work, dental hygiene, hair dressing, music, retail, radiology, meatpacking, massage therapy, and carpentry, just to name a few.

One’s risk for developing the symptoms associated with CTS can also be raised by factors outside of work such as having conditions like diabetes, hypothyroid, obesity, and arthritis (rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, most commonly); hormonal changes associated with birth control pills and pregnancy; and musculoskeletal dysfunction elsewhere along the course of the carpal tunnel. If someone who may already have an increased risk for CTS takes on a vocation that requires repetitive and forceful movements with few breaks, then the chances they develop pain, tingling, and numbness in their hands and wrists may be even higher.

The good news is that in many cases, a worker can recover from CTS and return to their job of choice (that is, not have to change careers) with reasonable work modifications (better ergonomics, more breaks, changes to the tools used), better management of health conditions associated with increased CTS risk, night splinting, dietary modifications to reduce inflammation and promote healing, and conservative care to address any musculoskeletal issues that are present (of which chiropractic care is a fantastic choice).

 

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.
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These Foods Can Help Fight Carpal Tunnel Syndrome…

6 Dec

Because inflammation along the course of the median nerve can contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), consuming these inflammation-reducing foods may help the patient achieve their desired outcome.

Salmon and other fatty fish, including tuna and sardines, are rich in omega-3 fats called EPA and DHA, which help reduce inflammation. Supplements are commonly used as well with the recommended dose of 1000 mg of combined EPA and DHA per day, which often requires 2000-4000 mg of fish oil to get EPA and DHA to the proper 1000 mg/day level. If you take a blood thinner or are preparing for surgery, discuss this with your physician!

Walnuts are an excellent source of alpha-lipoic acid, or ALA, another omega-3 fatty acid that also reduces inflammation, though to a lesser extent compared to EPA and DHA. Other foods rich in ALA include flaxseed and chia seed.

Pineapple is rich in an enzyme called bromelain, which also reduces inflammation and aids in digestion! But again, it can thin the blood if taken in a higher concentration (from a supplement) so be aware of this.

Turmeric is another great anti-inflammatory that’s found in mustards and curry sauces. Its anti-inflammatory properties are further enhanced when combined with black pepper and ginger!

Spinach is rich in vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), which can help reduce pain.

The “good news” about getting these important benefits from whole foods rather than from supplements is that it’s virtually impossible to consume toxic levels of these nutrients. Your doctor of chiropractic can help guide you in both the nutritional management of CTS as well as the many benefits derived from manual therapies, modalities, night splints, specific exercises for CTS, ergonomic/work station modifications, and more. If diabetes, inflammatory arthritis, or other complicating conditions are present, your chiropractor can work with your medical physician to coordinate care to obtain the best results for you!

 

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

Great Exercises for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

8 Nov

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is caused when the median nerve is compressed as it passes through the tight bony carpal tunnel at the wrist. The condition can result in pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the hand, and it can affect one’s ability to carry out everyday life and work tasks. Here are a few GREAT exercises for CTS that require no equipment and can be done anytime and anywhere:

PRAYER: Place your hands in a “prayer” position. Touch the palm-side finger pads together and slowly push the palms into one another while keeping the elbows up as much as possible as you feel a strong stretch in the hands, fingers, and palm-side of the forearms.

SHAKE: Shake your hands for 10-15 seconds as if you just washed them and you’re trying to air dry them off.

WRIST FLEXION STRETCH: Hold your arm out in front of you with the elbow straight, palm facing down. With the opposite hand, bend the wrist as far downward as possible so the fingers point to the ground. This will produce a strong stretch in the muscles located in the back or top of the forearm. Repeat five to ten times holding each stretch for 15–20 seconds (as tolerated).

These exercises can be repeated multiple times a day, as often as once per hour.  It is often very helpful to set a timer on your cell phone to remind you to take a stretch break. A “good pain” (stretch) is considered safe while sharp or radiating pain may be potentially harmful. However, if you experience sharp, lancinating, or radiating pain, then stop or modify the exercise.

Frequently, CTS involves more than just the wrist, and exercises that target the neck, shoulder, and elbow can often hasten recovery. This is especially true when there is “double crush syndrome” where the median nerve is entrapped in more than one location such as the neck, shoulder, elbow, or forearm (as well as the wrist).

Chiropractic management of CTS can include manipulation and mobilization of the hand, wrist, forearm, elbow, shoulder, and neck. Muscle release techniques are often employed as well as the use of physical therapy modalities such as laser, electric stimulation, ultrasound, and others. The use of night splints to keep the wrist straight when sleeping is a “standard” used by most healthcare providers. Co-management with primary care may be appropriate if diabetes, inflammatory arthritis, or other complicating conditions are present.

 

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: A Brief Overview

16 Oct

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a condition that arises when the median nerve is compressed as it passes through the narrow, rigid carpal tunnel, resulting in numbness, tingling, pain, and/or weakness in the hand and wrist.

The underlying cause of CTS can be obvious and easy to trace, such as an injury to the wrist, or the cause of the condition can be the result of cumulative trauma from months or years or repetitive strain caused by working with vibrating tools or poor ergonomics. Another cause can be the result of swelling/inflammation from conditions like arthritis, thyroid disease, pregnancy, or diabetes. In many patients, there are several factors at play, which all must be treated in order to obtain a successful outcome.

Women are three times more likely to develop CTS than men, mostly due to differences in the shape of the wrist.  This disorder usually occurs in adults (especially over the age of 50), but it can occur at younger ages, such as college music majors who practice their instrument for several hours each day with little time allotted to rest the tissues in the wrist.

After a thorough examination to identify all contributing factors for a patient’s CTS-related symptoms, a doctor of chiropractic may employ the following conservative treatments: a wrist splint to maintain proper posture at night when sleeping; anti-inflammatory measures such as ice; anti-inflammatory nutritional products such as ginger, turmeric, bioflavonoids, and others; work and/or leisure activity modifications that reduce strain on the wrist; manipulation of the small joints of the wrist as well as to joints proximal to the wrist including the elbow, shoulder, and cervical spine;  muscle release techniques to the upper extremity, especially the forearm and hand; stretching exercises;  and the use of some physio-therapeutic modalities can also facilitate in reducing inflammation.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, CTS usually responds well to conservative treatment, especially early in the course of the condition. However, in some cases, surgical intervention may be necessary.

 

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Don’t Wait!

10 Sep

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) occurs when the median nerve is compressed as it passes through the wrist. Researches estimate that the average person has a one-in-ten chance of developing the condition in their lifetime, and the risk is higher for individuals in certain professions (such as those using heavy, vibrating tools) and with medical conditions (like diabetes). The symptoms associated with CTS involve pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the hands and fingers, typically sparing the pinky and outer half of the fourth digit.

Given that some of us are more likely than others to develop CTS, what should we do if we start to encounter symptoms associated with the condition? Is it important to seek treatment right away or is it safe to wait?

Generally speaking, the faster a patient seeks care, the quicker they will respond to conservative treatment options like those offered in a chiropractic clinic. Delaying treatment may mean a longer recovery or even having to consider more invasive options, like a surgical procedure. But why is that?

Like many cells in the body, the nerves are provided nutrients by way of blood vessels. When even a small amount of pressure is applied to the median nerve, it can damage those blood vessels. Unless the vessels are given a chance to heal, the nerve can suffer. If the nerve damage is severe enough, even surgery may not be an option, and a patient may have to learn to live with their pain or find other ways to mask their symptoms.

One big problem with CTS is that patients rarely wake up with severe wrist pain that prompts them to seek treatment. Often, the condition is subtle with pain, numbness, and tingling that comes and goes. Individuals with CTS may find it more of an annoyance than anything and tend to put off treatment until the symptoms cause too much of an impact on their quality of life to ignore and they’re forced to call the doctor.

The good news is that patients often respond well to conservative care. Chiropractors often diagnose CTS and can effectively manage it without the need for more invasive surgical intervention, but the prognosis for an effective treatment outcome declines with the greater the degree of nerve damage. Hence, patients are encouraged to seek treatment sooner rather than later when it comes to CTS. Care often includes manual therapies (manipulation/mobilization), education (rest, ice, brace, exercise), nutrition (anti-inflammatory in nature), and more.

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

Can Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Be Caused By Your Job?

6 Aug

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common complaint, with symptoms ranging from subtle numbness to extreme pain and disability in the hand/wrist that can force a change in a worker’s vocation. According to the current research, the cause of CTS is the compression of the median nerve as it travels through the carpal tunnel at the wrist, which can be the result of repetitive motions involving the wrist, physical injury, and/or conditions like inflammatory arthritis, diabetes, pregnancy, and more. In other words, anything that reduces the tunnel’s size can result in median nerve compression and hence, carpal tunnel syndrome.

Researchers have found that industrial jobs that require repetitive, forceful work—those that involve heavy tools, for example—increase the risk for CTS, but the evidence isn’t as clear regarding jobs that involve repetitive motions with limited force, such as typing on a keyboard.

According to one Danish study that monitored the wrist health of 5,600 technical assistants, computer keyboard use may not be a likely cause of CTS. While the study did find that 11% of the workers experienced tingling or numbness in one or both hands, only 5% were considered to have developed CTS based on their overall description of symptoms—which is similar to what would be found in the general population. The study did find that using a mouse for twenty or more hours per week increased the risk for CTS.

However, that is not to say that working at a computer all day does not cause pain or strain in the hand/s, wrist/s, forearm/s, shoulder/s, or the neck. As mentioned above, just over half of the workers who experienced symptoms like tingling or numbness in the hands did not meet the diagnosis criteria for CTS.

Dysfunction anywhere along the course of the median nerve from the neck, shoulder, and elbow to the wrist can place pressure on the nerve and result in symptoms that mimic CTS. Doctors of chiropractic are trained to evaluate and treat the whole person in order to identify problems that either mimic or contribute to the symptoms associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. In many cases, a patient may not experience satisfying and lasting results unless problems elsewhere in the neck, shoulder, elbow, or lower arm are also addressed.

 

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.