Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is described as a numbness or pain shooting down the forearm and commonly into the middle finger. It is caused by inflammation in the “tunnel” through the wrist where the median nerve travels. This nerve provides sensation for your whole hand. When the tissue around the nerve becomes irritated, it presses on the nerve causing pain. I regularly see this complaint in clinic. It is common among people who do manual work for a living, like carpenters and chefs. Desk workers also can suffer from this due to the large amount of typing they do, combined with the angle their wrists are stuck at over the keyboard. It is what is called an RSI, Repetitive Strain Injury. From a western medicine perspective the exact cause is known, hence why its classed as a syndrome. In Acupuncture, in a large way it is caused by either lack of movement, or excessive movement, both which lead to blockages.
If the blood gets blocked then you have shooting sharp pains, if there is more swelling (called dampness), you get a numbness. Often in clinic patients present with a combination of both of these complaints. Nerve conduction tests are done to confirm the diagnosis and surgery is usually the only treatment. I regularly see patients who’ve had surgery several times, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome has a bad habit of re-occurring! If surgery needs to be repeated, then the underlying cause hasn’t been addressed in my opinion.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treatment with Acupuncture
Acupuncture is very good at reducing inflammation. After we come to a diagnose as to why you’ve developed Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, we then work on relieving the pressure being put on the nerve. In Acupuncture there actually isn’t a nervous system, sensation is provided through healthy circulation of Qi and blood through the meridians and tissues. The most commonly affected meridian is the Pericardium, which runs along the middle of the forearm into the hand, it follows the inflamed nerve. We needle along this pathway to get Qi and Blood flowing smoothly again. I also include points to reduce the tension in the forearms to safe guard against it re-occurring.
Preventing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Good health is all about movement. This condition often occurs due to repetitive movement, the key is to mix it up regularly. I always show my patients special Qi Gong stretches which help mobilise the wrist joint and prevent these blockages occurring. Remember, for the deeper tissues to become inflamed, this means the muscle tissue hasn’t been able to absorb the load, so you need to listen to your body:
- If you spends all day working with your hands, do wrist loosening and forearm stretches every hour
- Do dynamic forms of exercise like yoga, pilates or martial arts, which helps keep the joints mobile
- Avoid doing repetitive tasks with your arms
- Soak your arm from the elbow down in warm water with epsom salts 2-3 times a week