Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) results in pain, numbness, tingling, grip strength weakness, interrupted sleep, and can interfere with work, social family, and recreational activities. Symptoms can radiate up the forearm and down into the fingers making tasks that require intricate finger movements very difficult. Many of us know someone who has had carpal tunnel surgery, but what can be done in order to avoid surgery? Let’s find out!
Exercise: The follow five exercises should be performed MANY times a day! The goals are to keep the tendons traveling through the carpal tunnel freely, promote better circulation, remove the pinch on the median nerve, and strengthen muscles. As a general warning, modify or STOP ANY exercise if you feel sharp pain or worsening of symptoms!
- WRIST CIRCLES: Palms down, elbows bent 90 degrees, draw a circle with your third/long finger. Repeat five times, clockwise and counterclockwise. Increase the size of the circle with each repetition.
- THUMB STRETCH: Place the palm of your hand on a wall (elbow straight) fingers pointing downward. Reach across and pull your thumb back and hold for five seconds and repeat three to five times.
- 5-FINGER STRETCH/“BEAR CLAW”/FIST: a) Spread your fingers out of both hands as far as possible; b) Bend ONLY the fingers tips (not your big knuckle joints); c) Make a tight fist. HOLD each position for five seconds repeat three to five times.
- WRIST CURLS (4 positions: Palm up, Thumb up, Palm down, Pinky up): Using either Thera-Band / Tubing or light hand weights, sit and rest your forearm on your thigh; position your hand palm up and lift the weight/stretch the tubing towards the ceiling. SLOWLY release the resistance on the tubing / lower the weight towards the floor. Repeat this three to five times in each of the four hand positions listed above. For the “pinky up” exercise, raise your arm from your side so you can position your hand so the pinky faces the ceiling. Feel free to support your wrist with your other hand. You can gradually increase the weight (max. 5 lbs./2.27 kg) / band resistance.
- NECK STRETCHES: Bend your head sideways to the right and reach over with the right hand and pull gently while reaching down towards the ground with the left. Move your head and neck into various positions feeling for a good stretch in different tight neck muscles. Repeat this on the other side.
Diet and Nutrition: This is very important, as you can reduce the inflammatory markers in your body quite well by doing some very simple things! First, stop eating grains, as they can cause inflammation! Supplement your diet with 4000 IU of fish oil / day and 5000IU of vitamin D3 per day (of course, talk with your doctor first). Avoid sugar as much as possible. This will not only help reduce your swelling, but usually boosts your energy and helps with weigh loss—as obesity is a risk factor for CTS!
Sleep: Since we cannot control the position of our wrist when sleeping, wearing a splint that holds your wrist straight at night is extremely helpful. Your doctor of chiropractic can help you with this!
Driving: It’s common for CTS symptoms to worsen while you hold the steering wheel. Position your hands at an 8 and 4 o’clock position on the wheel to keep the wrist straight. Wearing a wrist splint when driving can help as well.
Chiropractic Care: There are often multiple sites between the neck (where the median nerve starts) and wrist that need to be kept loose to minimize nerve compression. These treatments are very effective for many people!