Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Acupuncture

By Cheryl McCarthy

Have you found yourself becoming completely absorbed with an activity only to realize the next day that it had left you with pain, numbness and weakness in the wrist or hand?

Have you awakened in the middle of the night with intense wrist discomfort?

You could have carpal tunnel syndrome, or CTS. CTS is defined as compression of the median nerve in the area of the wrist called the carpal tunnel.

The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway made up of ligaments and bones through which nerves and tendons pass. This is where the syndrome occurs when the median nerve or tendons get compressed causing swelling and inflammation.

Contributing factors of CTS can be diabetes, obesity, pregnancy, oral contraceptives, trauma, arthritis and hypothyroidism. Repetitive motion such as from extended time knitting, typing, texting, writing, sewing, driving, painting, using vibrating tools, assembly line work or cashiering, and sports such as racquetball, lacrosse and tennis – all can result in wrist, hand or thumb pain and numbness.

Two common and easy tests to perform are Phalen’s Test, in which where you compress the carpal tunnel area by squeezing together your two hands at the wrist, fingers down.

Tinel’s Sign is performed by gently tapping the inside of your wrist at the joint.

If either of these tests produce numbness or pain similar to what you have been experiencing then it’s possible that you have CTS.

(It is also important to rule out muscular or nerve origins further up the arm and into the neck.)

Acupuncture, along with wearing a brace at night and resting the wrist and hand, has a fantastic success rate with this type of condition. Other therapy options include surgery, corticosteroids shots or oral steroids.

It’s not uncommon for pain and numbness to continue for months and sometimes years before completely resolving using only rest.  Untreated pain can ultimately cause permanent nerve damage.      Steroids have their own side effects and surgery always involves additional scar tissue.

Acupuncture treatment is a wonderful match for carpal tunnel syndrome because of its capability to reduce inflammation.  Additionally, acupuncture addresses the underlying causes of CTS that lead to the incident in the first place.

Consider acupuncture as an early intervention with carpal tunnel syndrome.

Cheryl McCarthy, LAcMAcOM, is a licensed acupuncturist with a master’s degree in Oriental medicine.