How You Know You Have Carpal Tunnel

Let’s talk about a common condition called carpal tunnel syndrome.  Most people think this condition has an easy diagnosis; however it is one of the most common misdiagnosed conditions we see in our office. The majority of people who suffer from wrist pain or numbness and tingling in the fingers think that they have carpal tunnel but upon evaluation when they come into our office they don’t really have carpal tunnel at all. So let’s explain the secret behind carpal tunnel and what symptoms to look out for.

What is carpal tunnel? It is an irritation of a group of nerves or a specific nerve that travels and follows through a certain part of the wrist. That nerve is called the median nerve. It can sound complicated but all this means is that the median nerve is part of a group of nerves that go down both arms. These nerves come from the neck. Imagine that you have a group of nerves that all come together and form different smaller nerves and one of them in particular, the median nerve, is underneath a little ligament in the wrist. Carpal tunnel specifically means that this nerve, the median nerve, is being trapped or pinched in the carpal tunnel area, which is in the wrist.

The problem is most people with pain going down their arm automatically think its carpal tunnel and will self-diagnose or get the wrong diagnosis from their family doctor. Everyone thinks it is carpal tunnel, surgery occurs but the pain does not go away. There is a common trait that we see in our office with people with arm pain or numbness or pins and needles in their fingers and that is forward head posture. Keeping your head forward while you are working, driving, on your phone or computer, even sitting watching TV creates direct pressure and stress on the nerves in the neck. Remember where the nerves go from the neck; down the shoulder and arms right into the fingers. So it’s likely that if someone has forward head posture they are not going to have proper nerve flow going down the arms and those nerves will be pinched. But not in the carpal tunnel area, they will be compromised in the neck area.

How do you know you have carpal tunnel and not nerve problems that originate in the neck? Carpal tunnel only affects the thumb, index and middle finger. Pain is usually from the wrist to the elbow and there is difficulty when making a fist.  It is extremely important that people get the proper diagnosis and have surgery only when it is required. Proper diagnosis leads to a proper treatment plan and increasing your quality of life afterwards. As a chiropractor I need to find where that nerve pain is coming from and when there is pain going down the arm, 90% of the time there is a neck problem.

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