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  • Writer's pictureJohn K Maltby II, D.C.

That Carpal Tunnel syndrome might not be your wrist

Updated: Nov 29, 2022

I am not sure how many people still remember going to the grocery store before barcode scanners where installed everywhere, but if you do you would remember that every item had to be imputed manually on a key pad by the person checking you out. These keyboards were usually upright and placed at eye level with the person behind the counter. If you remember, almost every single one of those people behind the counter wore a wrist brace of some kind, because they had carpal tunnel syndrome. If you asked them if they were waiting for surgery most of them had already had surgery and it did not work. As a matter of fact to this day over 85% of everyone who gets surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome still have symptoms after surgery (1).

What exactly is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is classically defined when the median nerve becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist. The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway (tunnel) of ligaments and bone at the base of the hand, or wrist. When the median nerve is compressed it can cause symptoms like numbness, tingling, and weakness of the thenar muscles (gripping muscles) of the hand causing people to randomly drop things.

Median Nerve Anatomy
Median Nerve Path

Now, there are many different types of treatments available besides surgery. Bracing and exercises are included among these. Chiropractic has a unique approach since we like to analyze the nerve from its origin (the spinal cord) all the way to the end of that nerve. Pressure on this nerve at any point can cause these symptoms at the wrist and hand.

A common place we Chiropractors find this nerve to be compressed is in the upper forearm. The reason is due to the muscles this nerve travels around while on its way to the wrist and hand, specifically the pronator muscles. If you are sitting down and you put your hand on your lap with the palm face up, your hand is considered supinated. If you then turn your hand over (palm face down) your hand is now pronated, the muscles that do this are called pronator muscles and they are located in your upper forearm.

If your hand and forearms are in the pronated position those muscles are shortened, flexed. They might not feel like it but a shortened muscle is a flexed muscle. So, just like the person checking out your food at the store back in the day, the same goes for people who sit at a computer all day. Their hands and forearms are in a constant pronated position which, over time, can lead to excessive pressure on the median nerve.

Most people who come into my office and report having symptoms that are consistent with carpal tunnel syndrome will have some very painful spots on the inside of their upper forearm. Now, they did not notice anything up there until I push on it (which is part of my job, to find where it hurts and poke at it). This pain is due to underlying inflammation of the pronator muscles around the median nerve. These over stressed and inflamed muscles can put excessive pressure on the median nerve that causes it to not be able to function properly. This in turn produces symptoms that are usually correlated to carpal tunnel syndrome.

Most people are still going to see the MD about carpal tunnel syndrome and get prescribed drugs or sent to a PT. They are given stretches, exercises, and sometimes braces to help alleviate the symptoms. When these do not work, surgery is suggested. According to a study in 2006 in the journal of Hand, only 14% of people who get carpal tunnel surgery are symptom free (1). This is number is amazing when you consider that Carpal Tunnel surgery is considered to be the second most common type of surgery, with well over 230,000 preformed annually according to information from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

So, if this surgery is so common and yet over 85% of them are failures, what other options are there?

Besides completely analyzing the spine through orthopedic exams and x-rays to determine were and what to adjust, we also offer Class IV laser therapy. Class IV laser therapy has been very beneficial to many people in my practice here and research has shown it to have an 84% success rate on carpal tunnel syndrome (2). 84% seems to be a lot better than 14%.

On this site under our testimonials there is a video of Josh (Video) who had carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands for years. Many people in his family had had it as well and all received the surgery except him. When he came by our office 5 years ago we used the Class IV laser on both of his arms and he had full relief within two days. This is probably one of the quickest recoveries I have ever since in my practice, and he has been symptom free for 5 years.

Along with the adjustment, the Class IV laser has been a great asset here in this office helping people overcome pain and inflammation. There are over 2300 peer reviewed studies on PubMed that span that last 20 years on the effects of laser therapy. They are even using Class Iv lasers on animals and many, many Veterinarians utilize the Class IV laser in their practice. My favorite part about them being used on animals is that animals do not know what a placebo is, they either feel better, or they do not.

Here is a short list of other things that have responded well to Class IV laser in this office:

  • Headaches

  • Tendonitis

  • Shoulder Pain

  • Sprains/Strains

  • Neuropathy

  • Plantar Fasciitis

…….and many more.

If you have been struggling with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, or any other pain that you have been told drugs and surgery are the only options, the Class IV laser might just be what you need.

2. Naeser MA. Photobiomodulation of pain in carpal tunnel syndrome: review of seven laser therapy studies. Photomed Laser Surg. 2006 Apr;24(2):101-10. doi: 10.1089/pho.2006.24.101. PMID: 16706688.

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