Hey guys, Dr. Lell here from the lovely Sellwood area of Portland. When you think Chiropractor, you may only think of the spine but really we’re about the entire body. Even though I love treating spine pain as much as the next guy, one of my real interests is carpal tunnel syndrome. Many people come to me with the diagnosis of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. What I find very frequently is that what’s really bothering them is a closely related condition that can mimic the signs and symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome but may not respond as well to the usual CTS-specific treatments.
Why is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome a Bad Diagnosis?
Like Sciatica, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome has become a garbage can diagnosis. Pain, tingling, or numbness in the hand (all symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or CTS) is usually written off as CTS; especially if there’s a good backstory like someone with pain at night, someone working at a desk, or someone working with their hands like an electrician or cashier. But here’s the kicker – MANY conditions can cause CTS-like symptoms and there’s so much overlap, that the exam may be convincing too. I’ve prevented a lot of carpal tunnel surgeries by looking beyond the wrist and identifying overlooked contributing factors and lesser-thought of conditions that mimic Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Side note. If you or someone you know is considering surgery for this, check this out to learn why it may be a waste of time and money
Top five mimickers of “carpal tunnel syndrome”
1. Pronator Teres Syndrome
A muscle around your elbow can send tingly feelings and pain into the hand, especially when working at a desk, driving, or performing repetitive actions with the hand and wrist.
2. Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
This is when nerves, arteries, and veins get pinched somewhere between your neck and shoulder. Usually at one or more of three common places: the upper ribs, the scalene muscle, and the pecs. This can send pain, numbness, and tingling anywhere between the shoulder and hand. Especially when you reach over your head and when you sleep.
3. Referred Pain from a Trigger Point
Trigger points can send pain and other weird sensations anywhere in the body. There are characteristic and semi-reliable patterns of these trigger points and where they send pain. Trigger points that mimic carpal tunnel syndrome are usually in the forearm, upper arm, chest, shoulder, and upper back.
4. “Pinched Nerve” in the neck
Like dams to a river, mechanical obstructions or “pinches” on a nerve can block the flow of electrical impulses and function creating symptoms anywhere downstream. When something like a bulging disc or degeneration pinches a nerve, the symptoms can show up downstream in the hand.
5. Upper extremity Neural Tension
When a nerve doesn’t slide or glide along its pathway like it should, it can create a host of problems. Problems like tight muscles, inflammation, and pain, numbness, or tingling anywhere along that nerve’s pathway. This usually feels like a “piano wire” somewhere between your neck and hand.
How can a Chiropractor help me with my Carpal Tunnel?
Chiropractors are a great choice for carpal tunnel treatment because chiropractors look at the entire picture and can see how all the things from neck to finger work together. As a Chiropractor, I don’t see a wrist and a hand and an elbow in isolation, I see them as related structures of the entire arm.
Have you been experiencing numbness, tingling, or weakness in your hands and wrists lately? Make an appointment with our online scheduler and see if your Carpal Tunnel Syndrome isn’t really being caused by something else. Drop any questions in the comments section and if you’d like to request some writing on a specific topic, drop me a line on Facebook!
Yours in Health, Dr. Lell