In a world where we’re constantly on keyboards and touch screens, it’s probably not surprising that more and more people are dealing with carpal tunnel syndrome. This condition can disrupt our ability to work and participate in our favorite pastimes. It can significantly affect a person’s overall quality of life. In this article, we’ll cover carpal tunnel syndrome and what may be happening behind the scenes.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a condition that causes numbness, tingling, and other symptoms in the hand and arm due to compression of the median nerve as it passes through a narrow tunnel made by the bones of the wrist called the carpals. Hence, the “carpal tunnel.”
While the exact cause of CTS can vary from person to person, several factors may contribute to its development:
- Medical conditions like diabetes, obesity, and rheumatoid arthritis
- Hormonal changes like those related to pregnancy or menopause
- Genetic predisposition
- Fluid retention due to pregnancy or medications
- Working with vibrating tools or on an assembly line
It’s important to note that carpal tunnel syndrome can develop gradually over time and usually has several continuing factors. Identifying and addressing risk factors, adopting proper hand and wrist positioning during activities, and taking frequent breaks can help reduce the risk of developing CTS. If you experience any of the symptoms below, consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis. 
Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Some common CTS symptoms include:
- Numbness and tingling in the thumb and fingers, especially the index finger, middle finger, and ring finger
- Weakness in the hand muscles
- Wrist pain that gets worse at night
- Pain and burning from the hand to the arm
These symptoms often inspire someone to seek medical advice for carpal tunnel syndrome treatment.
How is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Diagnosed?
If you suspect you have carpal tunnel syndrome or have some of the symptoms, it’s crucial to get it diagnosed. Here’s how the process typically works: 
- Medical History and Physical Examination: Your healthcare provider will start by taking a detailed medical history, including asking about your symptoms, their duration, and any contributing factors. They’ll then do a physical examination, checking for signs of CTS, such as numbness, tingling, and weakness in the hand and wrist.
- Tinel’s Sign: During the physical examination, your provider may tap or press on the median nerve on the palm side of the wrist. That helps them to see if it causes tingling or other symptoms (Tinel’s sign).
- Wrist Flexion Test (Phalen’s Test): Another test often performed is Phalen’s test. For this test, the patient flexes their wrists and holds them together for a minute to see if it creates symptoms.
- Nerve Conduction Studies: A provider may order nerve conduction studies and electromyography (EMG) to assess the function of the median nerve and find the extent of nerve compression. These tests involve measuring electrical signals in the nerves and muscles.
- Imaging: In some cases, imaging studies like an ultrasound or MRI may be used to evaluate the carpal tunnel and surrounding structures.
- Blood Tests: Blood tests can rule out other medical conditions that could contribute to symptoms, like thyroid dysfunction or diabetes.
Once a diagnosis of CTS is confirmed, conventional treatment options may include wrist splinting, physical therapy, or, occasionally, surgery. Early diagnosis and intervention can lead to more effective management and symptom relief. Chronic compression of the median nerve can lead to permanent nerve damage, so don’t ignore the symptoms. Getting diagnosed is critical for knowing how to address the pain and symptoms.
The Fireman vs. The Carpenter in Healthcare
At The Wellness Way, we talk about the mainstream perspective on healthcare versus our perspective and methods as the “fireman approach” or the “carpenter approach.”
Mainstream “fireman” doctors have two tools (treatment options) for caring for people: an axe and a hose. The axe represents cutting things out in a surgical procedure. The hose represents using medications to extinguish inflammation, pain, and other symptoms.
The Wellness Way doctors are more like carpenters. They assess the current state of the body with testing and then create a personalized plan to rebuild using nutrients from foods and supplements. Sunshine, rest, and positive relationships are additional natural therapies that help with healing.
While these things are considered “complementary medicine” or even “alternative medicine,” scientific research backs up their effectiveness in healing.
Mainstream Medicine’s Approach to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Most doctors recommend reducing or altering activities that worsen symptoms, like repetitive hand and wrist movements. Taking frequent breaks from those activities and resting can also help.
While carpal tunnel syndrome may come from repetitive motion like typing, that’s not always the case. In a 2018 review, researchers concluded, “Although a high rate of repetitive hand/wrist motions is a risk factor, there is insufficient evidence to implicate computer use in the development of CTS.” 
Medications for CTS generally center around pain relief.
Common Medications Given For CTS
- Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): Over-the-counter medications, like ibuprofen or other NSAIDs, may be recommended to reduce pain and inflammation.
- Topical creams: Menthol-containing pain creams may also reduce hand pain associated with CTS.
- Corticosteroid injections: A healthcare provider may sometimes recommend a corticosteroid injection into the carpal tunnel. Occasional steroid injections can help to reduce inflammation and alleviate symptoms.
These pharmaceuticals may alleviate some discomfort by synthetically suppressing inflammation, but they all have side effects. Those side effects are why people seek out natural treatments or home remedies for carpal tunnel relief.
Other Treatments For CTS
Other conservative treatments that may help carpal tunnel pain include:
- Cold Packs: An ice pack can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain.
- Warm water treatment: Soaking the hands and wrists in warm water may also temporarily relieve pain. Some people may benefit from switching back and forth between heat and cold therapies.
- Wrist splints: Wrist splints or wraps can help protect the wrist from added physical stress.
- Hand exercises: Hand and wrist exercises are usually a part of natural and conventional CTS treatment. Daily exercises can improve mobility and reduce pain.
There are also surgical treatments a doctor may recommend depending on the severity:
Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery: When conservative treatments don’t provide relief, a doctor may recommend carpal tunnel release surgery. Carpal tunnel surgery involves cutting the transverse carpal ligament to release pressure on the median nerve. It can be done as an open procedure or an endoscopic minimally invasive surgery.
- Open Surgery: In open surgery, the surgeon makes a small incision at the base of the palm and cuts the transverse carpal ligament to create more space in the carpal tunnel.
- Endoscopic Surgery: In endoscopic surgery, the surgeon makes smaller incisions, and an endoscope guides the surgeon in cutting the ligament. This approach typically results in a shorter recovery period and less scarring.
Recovery: After surgery, rest and rehabilitation are necessary. Physical therapy can help the patient regain strength and flexibility in the wrist. Most people can gradually return to normal activities within a few weeks to months, depending on the type of surgery and individual factors. But before letting it get this far, we’d do well to consider what causes carpal tunnel syndrome in the first place.
What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? Traumas, Toxins, and Thoughts
Traumas (Physical Stressors)
Traumas or physical stressors can be acute or chronic. Chronic subluxations in the spine can inhibit nerve and blood flow to the arm and wrist, disrupting the ability to repair. Examples of traumas that may contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome include:
- A fall causing trauma to the wrist
- Burn injuries to the forearm or wrist
- A car accident with wrist trauma
- A sports injury involving the wrist/forearm
- Physical abuse
- Arm surgery
A wrist injury, fracture, or trauma can lead to swelling and inflammation in the wrist, which may compress the median nerve and contribute to CTS. However, wrist trauma doesn’t necessarily lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. It all depends on your susceptibility and lifestyle factors.
Toxins (Biochemical Stressors)
- Medications – Pharmaceutical drugs are foreign to the human body and almost always have side effects. Over time, medications may increase the body’s toxic burden, leading to inflammation and tissue breakdown. In CTS, a prime example is oral contraceptives. In one study, women taking an oral contraceptive improved significantly in 100% of the cases by stopping the pills for a month. Those who went back on them had symptoms return. 
- Sugar – Sugar increases inflammation throughout the body, including the joints. Researchers are finding that conditions like frozen shoulders, carpal tunnel, and rotator cuff disease are more common in those with diabetes than in the general public. 
- Food allergies – Foods can act like toxins, causing inflammation in the joints and elsewhere if you’re allergic to them. 
Anything that compromises the integrity of the gut lining, leading to a “leaky gut,” can lead to chronic inflammation. Traumas and toxins are made worse by negative thought patterns and emotional stress.
Thoughts (Emotional Stressors)
Don’t underestimate the power of your thoughts. Emotional stress is just as powerful (or more powerful) than physical and biochemical stressors in triggering pain and inflammation. Our emotional stress can be influenced by the following:
- Relationship issues
- Financial stress
- Watching the news (fear/worry)
- Feeling overwhelmed due to significant life changes, like a recent marriage, a new baby, graduation, a divorce, or even moving to a new city.
- Holding a grudge/pent-up anger
- Grief/feelings of loss
The cumulative effect of these traumas, toxins, and thoughts can create inflammation and increase the risk of dis-ease anywhere in the body.
The Wellness Way Approach to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
At The Wellness Way, we dig deeper to solve the health challenges others can’t. We don’t just address symptoms; we run tests to find out what’s going on behind the scenes.
Important Tests for Assessing Your Inflammation Levels
When there’s joint inflammation and pain, it means the immune system is involved. Food allergies and gut health may be reasons for an elevated immune response. That’s why Wellness Way practitioners will often recommend starting with these tests:
- Chiropractic Assessment and Diagnostic Films
- Food Allergy Test: Immuno Food Allergy Test
- Male or Female Panel: Male Panel or Female Panel
- Gut Health Test: Genova GI Effects with Parasitology
Your Wellness Way practitioner will order more tests based on what he or she considers most relevant based on your health history.
Dietary Changes for Those with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
First, focus on lowering inflammation in the body. That means avoiding food allergies and following a personalized nutrition program, as your Wellness Way practitioner recommends. Here are some general dietary guidelines for those with carpal tunnel syndrome.
- No sugar or processed foods – Both increase inflammation.
- Gluten-free, mostly grain-free – Gluten is known to aggravate the gut lining, contributing to chronic inflammation in the gut and brain. A gluten-free diet may help lower joint pain and inflammation and allow the gut to heal. 
- Consume an overall low carbohydrate, non-inflammatory diet of organic whole foods, which supply nutrients, antioxidants, and food for a healthy gut microbiome. Remember that those with higher blood sugar levels are more likely to develop a frozen shoulder.
- No cow’s milk dairy products – Goat and sheep’s milk products may be better tolerated. In fact, they may even help lower inflammation in the gut, which makes up a large part of the immune and inflammatory response. 
Avoid high omega-6 vegetable oils, like corn, canola, soybean, cottonseed oil, sunflower, grapeseed, and others, which can alter the omega-6 to omega-3 balance to be more inflammatory.  Instead, use fruit oils like olive, coconut, avocado, and palm oil or animal fats like beef tallow, bacon grease, and duck fat.
- Follow a Personalized Nutrition Program based on your food allergy test results.
- Add specific nutrient-dense foods: Add Liver/organ meats, sauerkraut, and microgreens for enhanced nutrition. Liver is nature’s multivitamin, according to Dr. Patrick Flynn.
- Focus on antioxidants – Including things like turmeric, green tea, berries, dark chocolate, and other botanicals high in polyphenols can help keep inflammation under control. 
- Eat omega-3-rich foods – Wild-caught salmon, herring, sardines, walnuts, and ground flaxseeds provide omega-3s and help lower inflammation. 
A healthy diet is essential for reducing inflammation, but supplements can support gut healing and joint repair.
Supplements For Those with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
A healthy diet reduces inflammation, but supplements can support gut healing and joint repair. They can help the body lower pain and inflammation and improve a person’s overall sense of well-being. Here are some natural remedies for carpal tunnel syndrome:
- Rehmannia – This herb may be considered “nature’s corticosteroid.” Rehmannia supports a balanced immune response and can help reduce inflammation. 
- Turmeric – Curcumin is the main active constituent in turmeric, known for its anti-inflammatory properties. A botanical blend including curcumin and black pepper helped reduce carpal tunnel pain 
- Fish oil – The omega-3 fatty acids in fish or krill oil may help lower inflammation and promote healing. It’s helpful in those with neuropathic pain, including carpal tunnel syndrome. 
- Bromelain – Bromelain, an enzyme isolated from pineapple, is a powerful anti-inflammatory that may ease joint pain and stiffness. 
- Vitamin B6 – Vitamin B6, especially in its active form, P5P, may reduce CTS symptoms by supporting the nervous system. 
- Vitamin B12 – Vitamin B12 works closely with B6 to support the nervous system. A clinical trial conducted in Japan found that methyl B12 was helpful for CTS symptoms in stroke patients. 
Each person is different – herbal remedies that work for one individual may not work for another. Part of that is due to body chemistry, including genetics and allergenic responses, and part is due to differences in the contributing factors.
Lifestyle Changes & Complementary Therapies for Those with CTS
- Regular chiropractic care – If your joints are out of proper alignment, it’s easier to injure them. Regular chiropractic care may help.
- Home exercises – Your chiropractor or physical therapist may give you hand- and wrist-stretching exercises to improve mobility and promote healing.
- Acupuncture – Acupuncture may stimulate the release of endorphins and other natural pain-relieving chemicals in the body. This boost in natural opioids can lead to reduced pain and improved function. 
Be a well-informed patient! Here are some resources for learning more about inflammation and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Educational Resources for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Videos & Webinars Related to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Articles to Support Those with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
CONNECT WITH US!
We invite you to connect with us! Find an event at a clinic near you! Follow us on social media. Tune in to A Different Perspective each Saturday morning LIVE to get cutting-edge training directly from Dr. Patrick Flynn. Please set up a no-obligation health consult with one of our doctors today. The best is yet to come! Think differently – and THRIVE. To learn how best to overcome carpal tunnel syndrome and other chronic complaints, contact a Wellness Way clinic today.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome | Johns Hopkins Medicine
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment (clevelandclinic.org)
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Making Evidence-Based Treatment Decisions – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome | National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (nih.gov)
- Acute Effect of Topical Menthol on Chronic Pain in Slaughterhouse Workers with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Triple-Blind, Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial (hindawi.com)
- The carpal tunnel syndrome—a new complication ascribed to the “pill” – ScienceDirect
- Diabetes and shoulder disorders – PMC (nih.gov)
- Food Allergies: The Basics – PMC (nih.gov)
- Extra-intestinal manifestations of non-celiac gluten sensitivity: An expanding paradigm – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Reviewing the Benefits of Grazing/Browsing Semiarid Rangeland Feed Resources and the Transference of Bioactivity and Pro-Healthy Properties to Goat Milk and Cheese: Obesity, Insulin Resistance, Inflammation and Hepatic Steatosis Prevention – PubMed (nih.gov)
- The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Dietary fruits and arthritis – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids And Inflammation – You Are What You Eat! – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Catalpol ameliorates CFA-induced inflammatory pain by targeting spinal cord and peripheral inflammation – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Curcumin slows osteoarthritis progression and relieves osteoarthritis-associated pain symptoms in a post-traumatic osteoarthritis mouse model – PMC (nih.gov)
- Safety and efficacy of an add-on therapy with curcumin phytosome and piperine and/or lipoic acid in subjects with a diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy treated with dexibuprofen – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids And Inflammation – You Are What You Eat! – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Neuropathic Pain: Case Series : The Clinical Journal of Pain (lww.com)
- Bromelain a Potential Bioactive Compound: A Comprehensive Overview from a Pharmacological Perspective – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Carpal tunnel syndrome and vitamin B6 – PMC (nih.gov)
- Amelioration by mecobalamin of subclinical carpal tunnel syndrome involving unaffected limbs in stroke patients – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Rewiring the primary somatosensory cortex in carpal tunnel syndrome with acupuncture – PubMed (nih.gov)