Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – What Makes My Hands Numb?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) sufferers frequently report a cluster of symptoms, but almost all have one symptom in common – numbness, usually in digits 2-4 on palm-side of the hand. CTS is usually attributed to an over-use type of injury such as repetitive work including (but not limited to): typing, assembly work, packaging jobs, machine operators, and many more. Last month, we discussed CTS “Facts” and learned many important points about CTS. This month’s focus centers around the common question, “….where is this numbness coming from?”

To answer this, let’s review the anatomy: The carpal tunnel is made up of 8 small “carpal bones” that form an arch or tunnel, and the base of the tunnel is formed from the transverse carpal ligament. There are nine tendons that attach muscles in the forearm to each finger and work when we grip or form a fist with our hand. Wiggle your fingers and look at your wrist and forearm – do you see all the activity or movement going on?

The tendons travel through sheaths which help lubricate the sliding tendons. When we move our fingers fast (such as typing, playing piano, performing assembly work, etc.), friction and heat builds up, resulting in swelling. If adequate rest does not occur, the increased pressure from the swollen tendons end up squeezing all the contents within the tunnel, which includes the median nerve. It’s the median nerve pinch that results in the numbness, tingling, and/or pain into the index, third and forth fingers.

There are other conditions that can either complicate or cause CTS. These include: hypothyroid disease (due to myxedema), diabetes (due to neuropathy), inflammatory arthritis (of which there are several kinds – rheumatoid is the most common), and pinching of the nerve either in the neck, shoulder, elbow or forearm (called double or multiple crush syndrome).

The reason chiropractic helps so much is that we can alleviate the pressure on the nerve from the neck down to the wrist and restore nerve function. This alleviates the multiple sleep interruptions, weakness in the grip that is so common, as well as helping to restore the nerve’s function. Many studies support the success of chiropractic and CTS – try it first as surgery should be the last resort.