Why is it so common?
Carpal tunnel syndrome or, CTS, is a condition where a nerve (called the median nerve) is compressed in a relatively tight or restricted space (called the carpal tunnel), resulting in altered nerve function that includes numbness and weakness. In order to fully understand what CTS is, let’s devote this Health Update to better understanding the anatomy of the carpal tunnel.
Video: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The carpal tunnel is made up from 8 bones (2 rows of 4 carpal bones that are stacked on top of each other) that are arranged in the shape of a horse shoe. The “roof” of the tunnel is a ligament (transverse carpal ligament) that stretches tightly across the two ends of the horseshoe completing the formation of a tunnel – actually, an upside down tunnel when looking at the palm side of the wrist). The contents of the tunnel include 9 tendons and their covering (sheath), blood vessels and on top of all that just under the roof is the median nerve – the culprit that creates most of the symptoms of CTS. The cause of CTS is simply anything that causes the contents inside the tunnel to swell, which then compresses the median nerve up into the roof or ligament, pinching the nerve. This can create numbness, tingling, the falling asleep sensation and weakness. It’s important to point out that the median nerve starts out from the neck, passes through the shoulder, past the elbow, through the wrist’s carpal tunnel and ends in the hand – specifically fingers 2,3, and 4. Therefore, the entire nerve must be looked at for all CTS cases as pinching can occur anywhere along its course from the neck to the hand.
It’s said that pictures say a thousand words, so let’s take a look…
Using the pictures here, familiarize yourself with the words and re-read the 2nd paragraph above, periodically looking at these pictures until you feel you understand where everything goes. Once you’ve accomplished that, you’ll be able to better appreciate CTS, how the anatomy relates to the condition, and appreciate the need to reduce the swelling inside the tunnel when symptoms occur. The treatment is simple: price – P protect R rest I ice C compress E elevate – accomplished by bracing (especially at night), ice cup massage (5 min. until numb 5x/day), rest (light duty work), and therapy (see your chiropractor!).
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