Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a common pain condition. It is caused by irritation of a nerve that runs into the hand. The name refers to the place in which it becomes irritated: the tunnel of Guyon. This tightly packed space is bordered by the bones of the wrist and a ligamentous band of tissue (flexor retinaculum). CTS surgery often involves cutting the retinaculum to release pressure and reduce symptoms. Your osteopath may be able to help you manage your symptoms before considering surgery.
The affected nerve runs into the palm of the hand, and supplies the thumb and next 2-3 fingers. Symptoms in this area can include:
pins and needles
sharp or shooting pains
There are similar conditions that cause nerve symptoms into the hand. The distribution of symptoms is important in identifying the root cause. Another nerve can be irritated around the shoulder or neck, which will require a different treatment plan. However, everyone’s nerves are wired slightly differently, so your osteopath will test the possible problem areas as well as use your case history to find an accurate diagnosis.
Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The median nerve can be irritated at this point by pressure from outside the tunnel, or compression from within.
External pressures include things like repeated crushing from using a mouse. Direct pressure from a cushioned mouse mat, or the desk itself can cause irritation. Similarly, an awkward wrist position such as excessive flexion or extension during desk work can also irritate the structures of the wrist. Your osteopath can advise you here: sometimes the trick is to look further afield and alter your chair height to relieve the wrist.
Causes from within the tunnel can be mechanical too. RSI (repetitive strain injury) can affect muscles whose tendons also pass through the tunnel. Friction and inflammation here can affect the other structures within the tunnel, such as the nerve. Pressure can also be caused by more generalised swelling. Fluid retention, as a result of pregnancy, lymphoedema, or some medications, is a common example of this.
Osteopathy and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Osteopaths can help with nerve pain, and depending on the root of your CTS, we may be able to address the cause too. If you notice that your discomfort is associated with computer work, we can help you find a better desk position. Ergonomic guides are a good place to start, but they are generic. We may be able to advise more tailored changes that will suit you better.
If your pain is due to fluid retention as a result of pregnancy or a chronic health condition, we may be able to provide some symptomatic relief. Some retention responds well to techniques to move the fluid back into circulation. It does eventually come back, but the temporary change may be enough to allow the nerve to become less excited. We can provide exercises to keep your symptoms under control between appointments too.