By Mark Davis BHSc (Chinese Herbal Medicine, Acupuncturist.)
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a condition, which affects the median nerve of the upper extremity, it passes from the forearm through the wrist to the palm of your hand. The Carpal Tunnel is a narrow passageway through which the median nerve passes, and when it becomes inflamed from repetitive movement it can cause pain and swelling locally, which without treatment may become progressively worse.
People will often describe symptoms such as a localised ‘pins and needles’ type sensation, numbness and tingling in the fingers and palm of the hand in addition to pain, which may be experienced distal to the wrist or radiating back toward the elbow. Swollen wrist and fingers or a sensation that the hand feels larger than it looks, or even grip weakness, which can make everyday routine tasks more difficult.
Fluid retention during pregnancy, localised trauma, repetitive strain and being overweight are all risk factors to developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Females are statistically more susceptible to developing the syndrome than males, and often there is a familial component as a risk factor.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome treatment with Western Medicine can range from rest, ice and splints to anti-inflammatory medications and corticosteroid injections. In many cases as it is a difficult condition to resolve and surgical intervention is often recommended to relieve pressure on the carpal tunnel itself by longitudinal incision of the fascia to allow more space surrounding the nerves and tendons.
Acupuncture can be a highly effective alternative treatment; at Root & Branch Oriental Therapies in Melbourne we use a combination of local points, distal needling, trigger points and oriental therapies such as cupping to target both the root cause and branch symptomology for the best clinical outcome.
Acupuncture point prescriptions often include local points of the affected limb, which are stimulated by the use of a low range electrical current, traversed along the inflamed tunnel to disperse inflammation and resolve pain. Additionally the neck and shoulders are often assessed for tightness, trigger points activation and even nerve compression, which can be the root cause of the syndrome. Many people will hold tension in their shoulder, which reduces circulation to the arms, which in conjunction with other factors may result in inflammation and pain.
From the perspective of Chinese Medicine, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is often experienced by people who are suffering from stressful situations and when that is combined with repetitive movement & poor ergonomics pain is often a result; managing stress and changing lifestyles to cope better with modern day stressors which lead to inflammation will also assist in preventing relapse.
Anecdotally relief of pain can often be felt even after the first treatment, however a full course of 4-8 consecutive treatments over a period of 2-4 weeks is recommended to ensure that the inflammation is healed. There is often a temptation for people to stop treatment after 2-3 acupuncture sessions, however if there is no modification in lifestyle the risk of the problem returning is high. Continuing treatment a few sessions past the resolution of pain is important so that the body has time to continue healing to prevent relapse.
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