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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
by Dave Foreman
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is the most common peripheral nerve compression syndrome, affecting about two million American adults. For some reason this condition seems to impact more women than men.
The carpal tunnel is a small space or "tunnel" in the wrist formed by the wrist bones (carpal bones) and the transverse carpal ligament. The median nerve and several tendons pass through the carpal tunnel from the forearm to the hand. The tendons are surrounded by tubes of tissue called tendon sheaths. The median nerve controls some movements of the thumb, and supplies feeling to the index finger, middle finger and part of the ring finger and thumb.
It is believed that CTS is caused by extended periods of repetitive motion by the hands and wrists. The following is a brief list of some of the more common causes of CTS:
When compared with other illnesses and injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common causes of absence from work. Carpenters, assembly-line workers and people who work with computers seem to be most susceptible. Other non-job-related links are activities like golf, tennis, gardening, skiing and shooting, and health challenges like arthritis, thyroid disorder, gout, diabetes and even pregnancy. Basically, anything that has a repetitive motion involved with the hands and wrists may increase the risk of developing this condition.
Symptoms of CTS include numbness, weakness, pain and tingling in the hands. The exact location is usually where the nerve passes through the carpal tunnel in the wrist. In some cases, people may notice lack of motor control in the hands, as well as a loss of sensation to hot and cold.
To date, modern medicine offers a few solutions to CTS. The most drastic approach is surgery. For those opting for the less invasive approach, pain relievers, anti-inflammatory drugs and splints seem to be the most useful. All of these are a “band-aid” on the condition. I believe that unless you change your lifestyle (decrease or eliminate the triggering activity), you will be prone to this condition forever.
Natural medicine doesn’t offer a cure for CTS, but it does offer many other approaches that are “good for you” as opposed to the more radical medical treatments with drugs or surgery. Mother Nature provides us with some key nutrients that are very helpful at reducing pain and inflammation (see below for details. Obviously, as mentioned above, lifestyle changes are most important. Until you can change your activity, supplements will offer you the relief you need without the side effects of modern treatments. The use of acupuncture and chiropractic manipulation has been helpful for many CTS sufferers. As with modern medicine, splinting or immobilizing the affected hand and wrist is also very helpful. I recommend several supplements for CTS, the most popular of which is vitamin B-6. Taking 100mg of B-6 (up to 3 times daily) has been shown to help reduce the pain and other symptoms associated with CTS. Long term use of more than 200mg of B-6 should be monitored by your natural health practioner. Prolonged use of very high levels of B-6 has been associated with damage to sensory nerves. I have found that taking a B-complex and an extra magnesium supplement with your B-6 will often offset the potential for nerve problems.
Besides the use of B-6, supplements which help reduce inflammation and pain are also helpful. I prefer the use of Zyflamend® and omega-3s from fish oil. Zyflamend provides a shotgun approach to fighting the damage caused by inflammation. In my mind, the use of omega-3s for fighting inflammation is just as important. I believe they should be part of most natural anti-inflammatory supplement programs. If you have difficulty finding these supplements, consult with your health enthusiast for a brand that is similar in quality and ingredients.
If you have been dealing with CTS, it is time for you to go natural. Time and natural medicine heal all wounds. Give your wrist(s) a break and take your supplements regularly to ensure you get the results you desire.