That may Not be Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Portland Chiropractor explains common mimickers of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Hey guys, Dr. Lell here from the lovely Sellwood area of Portland. When you think Chiropractor, you may think spine but really we’re about the entire body and even though I love treating back pain, neck pain, and headaches as much as the next guy – one of my real clinical interests and focuses is carpal tunnel syndrome. Many people come to me with the diagnosis of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Some with supporting lab work and sometimes they’re even scheduled for surgery. 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 traditional 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 who works at a desk a lot, or someone who works with their hands (electrician, construction, cashier, etc.) 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 often 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 pectoralis muscle. This can send pain, numbness, and tingling anywhere between the shoulder and hand especially when working over your head or at higher levels and sleeping.

3. Referred Pain from a Trigger Point

Trigger points, little nodules of dysfunctional and tight muscle fibers, can send feelings of pain and other weird sensations anywhere in the body. This is biological phenomena thought to arise from common tissues during embryological development. There are characteristic and semi-reliable patterns of these trigger points and where they send pain. Trigger points that mimic carpal tunnel syndrome will often be found 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. If a nerve is pinched in the neck from a bulging disc or degeneration, 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 (for any reason) it can create a global movement problem resulting in tight muscles, inflammation, and feelings of pain, numbness, or tingling anywhere along that nerve’s pathway. This isn’t a solid orthopedic or neurological condition; it’s a condition of poor movement.

How can a Chiropractor help me with my Carpal Tunnel?

Chiropractic physicians are the best option for carpal tunnel treatment, even cases confirmed by needle EMG studies, because chiropractors look at the entire picture and can see how all the structures from neck to finger work together to give rise to local and seemingly isolated symptoms and have the superior orthopedic and neurological skills to tease out all the small differences between conditions. 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, shoulder, and neck. Have you been experiencing numbness, tingling, or weakness in your hands and wrists lately? Have you been told you have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? Are you scheduled for Carpal Tunnel Surgery? 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