Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – Wrist Pain and Numbness

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Wrist and Arm Pain.

What is the carpal tunnel?

The carpal tunnel refers to the passageway that is formed at the wrist that the nerves, tendons, and blood vessels go through.   Normally this is just like a tunnel that you would drive through. However, if the roof of the tunnel drops or the tunnel becomes smaller due to changes in tissue or swelling, then pressure is applied against the nerves and the blood vessels.

How does this happen? This condition can follow repetitive use of the hand as in typing or in using a screwdriver. It is also found after a fall where you catch all of your weight on your hand. Another example is using your hand like a hammer or pushing on something like in scrubbing a counter or floor. Injuries at the wrist usually cause problems with the major nerves that cross over the wrist into the hand. There are two major nerves. One is the median nerve and is found involved in problems that are loosely named “carpal tunnel”. The other nerve is the ulnar nerve. This nerve also goes through a tunnel as it passes down from the forearm into the hand.

What are the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome?

The median nerve entrapment is the most common problem. This nerve supplies the major muscles of the thumb. Pinching of the nerve at the wrist can cause tingling or lack of sensation in the thumb and first finger. There will be weakness of the grip due to the failure of the thumb to be able to contract fully.The ulnar nerve is found on the little finger side of the hand and supplies the little finger and one muscle of the thumb. Entrapment of this nerve will cause symptoms usually around the little finger. They are similar to those of the median nerve described above.

These nerve entrapments occur because the bones in the wrist become altered from their normal positions. If you put your hand up in front of you with the palm down, the bones of the wrist would normally form the roof of a tunnel. In the case of the median nerve, carpal tunnel, the roof has fallen placing pressure on the nerve. The ulnar nerve becomes stretched when the side of the tunnel moves outwards. Usually, we find these two conditions at the same time.

There are two simple tests that you can use to see if someone may have this condition. The first is testing the strength of the thumb and little finger. Have the person place these together and gently pull apart. Weakness can be caused by any problem affecting the nerve. This can be in the neck, shoulder area, elbow or at the wrist. To stress the wrist joint, place the back of your hands together and point your fingers straight down with your elbows out to the side. If this position cannot be held for one minute without symptoms, then the person being tested is a strong candidate for carpal tunnel.

What happens if it isn’t treated?

The longer this condition lasts the more permanent the loss of strength, the greater the degree of loss of sensation and numbness in the hand becomes. The symptoms can radiate up the arm to the elbow. Left untreated, this becomes a surgical problem. Some studies have shown that surgery can be successful in as few as 35% of the cases. Other studies show a higher success rate.

What you can do!

  1. Exercise the muscles that support the ligaments at the wrist.   These should be done many times a day. The more you exercise these muscles, the faster you will attain enough strength so that you do not have to tape your wrist.
  2. Place your elbow next to your body and keep your elbow bent at 90   degrees.  Turn your arm from a thumb up to a thumb down position. (right arm counterclockwise – left arm clockwise) Do not bend your wrist or let your elbow drift away from your side while you are doing this exercise.

Repeat this 20 times, employing either  one of the following:
Grasp a doorknob or  a towel;
Use resistance against your other hand;
Use an elastic cord.

Wrist Do’s and Don’ts

1. Do not use your hand like a hammer.

2. Do not push objects or lean on your hand, as in doing a push-up.  This is called hyperextension of the wrist and should be avoided.

3. Do not do repetitive motions with your hands.

4. When using your hands, keep your elbows bent

5. Take frequent breaks when doing hand work and shake out your hands

What nutritional changes should I make?

First, you need to restrict or stop all salt intake. This causes fluid retention and swelling.

Take some proteolytic enzymes – like bromelain, which helps to reduce inflammation.

The most important nutrient is B – 6 or pyridoxine. A deficiency of this nutrient has been linked to carpal tunnel syndrome.   You should also reduce antagonists to B – 6. These include yellow dye #5, hydralazine treated foods like potato chips and excessive protein. Some medications increase the need of B – 6 in the diet. These include dopamine, penicillamine and birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy.

We hope you found the information in this article to be informative and useful.  Your comments and questions – either by phone or email – are always welcome.   Please check out our website:  And if you find this information beneficial, please share it with your friends and family.  Thank you.

Dr. Joseph Vomero, DC
Vomero Chiropractic and Holistic Health Center
7324 E. 6th Avenue
Scottsdale, AZ  85251