Carpel Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is compression of the median nerve at the wrist, which may result in numbness, tingling, weakness, or muscle atrophy in the hand and fingers.

The Carpal Tunnel, surrounded by bones and ligaments, is a narrow passageway located on the palm-side of the wrist. The Carpal (from the Greek word karpos, meaning "wrist") Tunnel is a very small opening, approximately 6 mm below the surface of the wrist through which the median nerve passes. This tunnel protects the median nerve (the main nerve to the hand) and nine tendons that bend the fingers. Pressure placed on the median nerve produces the numbness, pain and, eventually, hand weakness that characterize Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Fibrous tissue supports the bones that create the Carpal Tunnel. For a number of reasons this tissue can become damaged and is unable to support the walls of the tunnel. It becomes too narrow for all the nerves, veins etc., to pass easily and this creates the signs and symptoms associated with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

One of the recognition signals of Carpal Tunnel is a sharp pain felt when the wrist is flexed. There may be a tingling feeling in the hands and fingers as well. Some patients complain of a burning feeling or numbness of the first three fingers of the hand. Stretching of the fingers may give some immediate relief. Sometimes pain is felt close to the compression site in the forearm and shoulder. The pain may be more severe at night.

Although Carpal Tunnel Syndrome affects both sexes, women between the ages of twenty-nine and sixty-two seem to be affected more than any other segment of the population. Some women suffer from the problem because of constantly carrying heavy shopping bags. Other ailments which may be a cause of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome include excess bodyweight, hypothyroidism (under active thyroid), and pregnancy. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome must be diagnosed by a Doctor and suitable treatment given.

CAUSE
A possible cause of this complaint may be traced to rheumatoid arthritis, but the more common reason probably is overuse of the wrist and hand. This is understandable as the more the wrist is flexed doing the same job, day after day, the more the Carpal Tunnel fibrous tissue is under stress. Some typists and pianists suffer from this ailment. Recent studies have revealed that typing heavily on a keyboard can cause Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and office workers who want to avoid this injury should be trained to reduce the use of excessive typing force.

TREATMENT OPTIONS
A Doctor will diagnose this problem. Surgery is one solution and your Doctor will be the one to advise on this. Sometimes a cortisone injection may be given by your Doctor.

DIET HINTS
Generally it is thought that there is no strong dietary advice that will make any considerable difference to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Obesity is highly linked with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome so it is advisable to lose weight if necessary.

VITAMINS/MINERALS/HERBS
• Vitamin B6 deficiency is a common finding in Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. This vitamin has been shown to reduce the nerve inflammation that can be present in Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
• Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a herb with anti-inflammatory properties, which may help to reduce pain.
• Bromelain can aid in stimulating circulation and relieve inflammation and swelling in the body.
• Ginkgo may improve circulation and be beneficial in the treatment of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

NOTES
Another physical problem, tennis elbow, can sometimes mimic the disease.

PHARMACIST'S ADVICE
Ask your MedAux Pharmacist for advice:
1. Follow the Diet Hints with particular attention to the vitamin B6 foods. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is thought to be associated with a vitamin B6 deficiency in some people.
2. Avoid any obvious cause for the injury e.g., carrying heavy shopping etc.
3. Your Pharmacy has a special wrist support for Carpal Tunnel. Do not use it 24 hours a day but only when necessary for support.
4. Some anti-inflammatory tablets containing ibuprofen might be suggested by your Pharmacist. This should ease the pain.
5. Use a cold pack for relief, which is stocked by your Pharmacy.
6. Some nutritional supplements might be suggested if the diet is considered inadequate. Vitamin B6 is the most noted of the supplements if there is any swelling present.