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Posted by: Scott Stewart, LAc., Dipl.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a common condition experienced by patients between the ages of 30 and 60 who do repetitive tasks with their hands; like working with hand tools or tools that vibrate. What happens is the median nerve in the wrist becomes entrapped by the ligament that crosses over the top of it. Swelling and irritation of the nerve causes symptoms such as: pain at the wrist or hand, pain when extending the elbow, numbness and tingling in the first 3 and ½ digits, clumsiness or the inability to grip objects, poor finger coordination, weak grip, and muscle wasting under the thumb.
The standard protocol in conventional medicine is to prescribe an anti-inflammatory such as an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug); like Ibuprofen or Naproxen. Another course of action would be a corticosteroid injection into the wrist area, but this is only a temporary solution. Also, they may have you wear a splint at night to stabilize the wrist, and give you some hand exercises to do on a daily basis. Unfortunately, I hear too often doctors are telling their patients to get carpal tunnel release surgery, which involves cutting the ligament. This is completely unnecessary and in the majority of cases the problem will reoccur.
In Eastern Medicine CTS is most often caused by Qi and blood deficiency, and the pain is commonly caused by blood stasis in the wrist area. When there isn’t enough Qi and blood to the fingers to nourish the tendons and ligaments this causes the numbness & tingling. Why isn’t enough Qi and blood getting there? This occurs due to taxation due to overwork, ongoing bodily weakness, underlying deficiency, enduring disease, or pregnancy. The blood stasis can be derived from a repetitive micro trauma to the wrist area, a meridian blockage, or a further manifestation of blood deficiency where the there’s not enough blood to nourish the local vessels.
Treatment from an Eastern Medicine practitioner will focus on not only the symptoms, but the root of the problem; in this case the cause of the Qi and blood deficiency or Qi stagnation and blood stasis. We do this through the use of different modalities like acupuncture, herbs, topicals, diet modifications, and exercises for the hands which improve Qi and blood flow. Acupuncture and the other modalities mentioned are non-invasive and have been proven to be more successful than conventional therapies; including surge