Acupuncture & Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)
Do you experience tingling in your hand or fingers? Pain that radiates from your wrist to your shoulder? Maybe even difficulty holding small objects? If so, you could be suffering from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), an uncomfortable and sometimes disabling condition. CTS affects up to five million Americans. The good news is that lifestyle changes can relieve symptoms, and there are many treatments available to help. Acupuncture can effectively treat CTS without side effects or toxic medications.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway in the wrist that protects the median nerve which innervates the hand and the tendons controlling the fingers. This nerve controls sensation and muscle movement in the hand. If the carpal tunnel becomes narrowed from swelling or trauma, the nerve is compressed and impinged. This can cause numbness in the hands.
There are several causes of CTS. The main culprit is repetitive flexion / extension of the hands and wrists tendons, especially when performed for long periods. This leads to repetitive stress injury (RSS). Symptoms usually start with dull wrist pain that gradually worsens. Other symptoms may include:
- Loss of feeling in the fingers.
- Numbness, tingling, or burning sensations in the fingers or hand.
- Pain extending from the wrist up the arm to the shoulder or down into the palm or fingers.
- Weakness in the hands and difficulty holding objects.
On this basis, treatment for CTS is based on how severe the symptoms are. It may include immobilizing the wrist and hand, using anti-inflammatory drugs or corticosteroid to reduce swelling. Surgery is a modality in severe cases. Acupuncture and TCM can safely be used in conjunction with allopathic treatments to relieve CTS symptoms.
How Can Acupuncture Help?
Studies suggest that acupuncture can both reduce swelling of soft tissue and stimulate production of cortisol to reduce inflammation. Since CTS is caused by swelling of the soft tissue that leads to inflammation of the carpal tunnel, acupuncture can be effective in treating CTS. In addition to improving your CTS, treatment may also improve other symptoms often associated with this condition such as headaches, neck pain, and shoulder stiffness. More importantly acupuncture and TCM can help relieve the emotional stress of living with this painful condition.
As always, I design a unique personalized treatment plan to address your imbalances. This includes a point prescription as well as life style adjustments and also supplements, herbal or other natural alternatives. TCM offers safe, pain-free and natural ways to treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. With proper care you can recover from CTS. As you continue with treatment you may even find that your overall health and well being improve along with your symptoms!
Quick Tips to Prevent or Minimize CTS
First, take plenty of breaks during the day, especially if you perform repetitive tasks (yes, this includes pointing and clicking with a mouse!). I find that a majority of people who started to work from home during the pandemic end up working more hours, sometimes up to 30% more… However, establish boundaries with your employers or they will squeeze every single drop of QI out of you until death do you apart!
Second, try yoga to increase flexibility and strength (not just of the hand). I also always recommend swimming because it’s horizontal and water is a Yin element thus nurturing and healing. Also remember to gently stretch your hands, arms and shoulders throughout the day.
Thirdly, if you work at a computer consult with an ergonomics specialist to ensure that your workstation is set up correctly. If you work at a company request it from your employer – if you work at home do some research or ask me. In this context, I routinely recommend working standing, your lower back and shoulder will also thank you.
Finally, we can also discuss the use of supplements such as B2, B6 and omega 3 fatty acids for reducing numbness and inflammation. However, a balanced diet should provide you with everything you need in that area… over-supplementation carries its own health risks. Also our list of modalities should provide you with healing and support.
Sources + References
- Merck Manual – Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine Bahrami-Taghanaki, Hamidreza, Hoda Azizi, Hosein Hasanabadi, Mohamad Hassan Jokar, Amir Iranmanesh, Ali Khorsand-Vakilzadeh, and Shapour Badiee-Aval. 2020. “Acupuncture for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: A Randomized Controlled Trial Studying Changes in Clinical Symptoms and Electrodiagnostic Tests.”
- The American Journal of Chinese Medicine Ho, Chien-Yi, Hsiu-Chen Lin, Yu-Chen Lee, Li-Wei Chou, Ta-Wei Kuo, Heng-Wei Chang, Yueh-Sheng Chen, and Sui-Foon Lo. 2014. “Clinical Effectiveness of Acupuncture for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.”
- Wu, Irene Xy, Victor Ck Lam, Robin St Ho, William Kw Cheung, Regina Ws Sit, Li-Wei Chou, Yan Zhang, Ting-Hung Leung, and Vincent Ch Chung. 2020. “Acupuncture and Related Interventions for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Systematic Review.” Clinical Rehabilitation.