The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway in the wrist, about an inch wide. The floor and sides of the tunnel are formed by small wrist bones called carpal bones. The roof of the tunnel is called the transverse carpal ligament. Because these boundaries are very rigid, the carpal tunnel has little capacity to "stretch" or increase in size. Inside this tunnel are the tendons of the thumb and fingers, and the median nerve. This nerve provides feeling in the thumb and fingers and controls the muscles around the base of the thumb. Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) occurs when the tunnel becomes narrowed or when tissues surrounding the tendons swell, compressing the median nerve.
Repetitive use of the hands- like typing or texting - is a common cause of local inflammation in the carpal tunnel. Another key component is systemic inflammation, which can cause swelling throughout the body. This only makes matters worse.
Many people turn to surgical intervention for help with CTS. This is an extreme, painful, costly solution that does not guarantee long term pain relief. Hormonal changes during pregnancy, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid gland imbalance are conditions that the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons associates with carpal tunnel syndrome. As you can see- the contributing factors can be complex and involve many different parts of our bodies and lifestyle. Changes in lifestyle and physiology can take time. Acupuncture can help increase the effectiveness of systemic therapies while at the same time helping to alleviate pain. A study published last year describes a few surprising details of just how it works.
Carpal tunnel syndrome causes measurable, physiological changes in the body. Sufferers experience a slowdown of nerve impulses traveling across the wrist. They also experience destructive changes in the somatosensory cortex, the part of the brain responsible for the sense of touch. Nerve signals from the hand become “blurred.” Vitaly Napadow, associate professor for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and the lead author of a study on acupuncture and CTS describes his amazing findings: “Brain cells that usually respond to touch signals from individual fingers start to respond to signals from multiple fingers, he says. After a series of Acupuncture treatments, participants reported improvements in pain and numbness. Those who had acupuncture for the affected arm also experienced significant brain remapping, Napadow says. Before-and-after MRI scans showed that some of the carpal-tunnel related damage to their somatosensory cortexes had been repaired. In addition to this, nerve conduction studies revealed that median nerve function was being repaired as well.”
People who got acupuncture seemed to have longer term benefits, too. At a three-month follow-up, people who experienced this type of brain remapping were more likely to report sustained improvement in function—and in symptoms like pain, numbness, and tingling—than those who didn’t. Are you experiencing discomfort in your hand and wrist? Weak, numb or tingling fingers? You may be experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome. Acupuncture can help.
© 2018 Kristina D. Allred, M.S.O.M., L.Ac., Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM)
M.S. Oriental Medicine
Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM)
Kristina Allred holds a Master of Science degree in Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine, is a Licensed Acupuncturist, and is board certified in acupuncture by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. She has extensive experience in nutrition as well as herbal medicine. Kristina is a “Health Detective,” she looks beyond your symptom picture and investigates WHY you are experiencing your symptoms in the first place. Kristina’s background also includes working in organic agriculture and as a chef. Kristina is currently accepting new patients and offers natural health care services and whole food nutritional supplements at Vital Health in Coeur d’ Alene. Visit our website at www.vitalhealthcda.com to learn more about Kristina, join our e-mail list and read other informative articles. Kristina can be reached at 208-765-1994 or firstname.lastname@example.org and would be happy to answer any questions regarding this topic.