As the weather warms, so too does the desire to be more active and spend time outside with friends and family. If you’re someone who spends a lot of the day on the computer, or in a job that requires other repetitive motions in your wrists and hands, you might be walking into summer in pain and wary of any upcoming bocce ball tournaments.
In some cases, repetitive movements of the wrist and fingers, including typing, can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. Characterized by pain in the wrist and hand, carpal tunnel syndrome means the median nerve, which runs from the forearm to the wrist to the hand, has been compressed. This compression causes pain, numbness, tingling and occasional weakness of the wrist, arm and hand.
Conventional medicine treats true carpal tunnel syndrome with splints, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and cortisone shots. If none of these work, then surgery is recommended. Carpal tunnel surgery is the second most common type of surgery in the United States, following back surgery.
However, many people who develop wrist pain are misdiagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome and sent to surgery when it isn’t needed. This can lead to further, more serious complications. It’s important to find out if your discomfort is being caused by true carpal tunnel syndrome or just inflamed trigger points that need attention. When trigger points are “upset,” the pain can actually mimic the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) utilizes acupuncture, as well as many other modalities, to treat pain associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. Acupuncture and electroacupuncture can be extremely beneficial for those suffering from this condition. A study conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital demonstrated acupuncture and electroacupuncture not only decrease pain, but also remap the brain. Before and after MRIs showed the carpal tunnel-related damage to the somatosensory cortex was repaired in participants who received acupuncture. This means those subjects actually showed continued improvement over time and their ability to function improved, too.
Acupuncture is a safer alternative to NSAIDs, cortisone shots and surgery. Studies confirm acupuncture decreases inflammation and restores function to tight muscles and tendons. Many studies show acupuncture eliminates the pain source rather than just masking the symptoms. Acupuncture is cheaper, less invasive and has a much higher probability of providing permanent relief. But in order to do this, the proper diagnosis must be made.
As mentioned before, angry trigger points can mimic carpal tunnel pain. Acupuncture can also be very beneficial for those experiencing trigger-point pain. Any one of the many muscles in the arms can become angry from repetitive motion. By stimulating painful trigger points with acupuncture needles, the muscles fire and release. This allows the muscle fibers to return to a relaxed state, relieving pain.
Wrist pain can be a serious burden for those who suffer from it, but before writing off the possibility of all summer lawn games this year, consider giving acupuncture a try.