The median nerve travels from your forearm into the hand through a small canal or opening in the wrist – “the carpal tunnel”. The bottom and sides of this canal are formed by bones, while the top of the canal is covered by a ligament. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve is compressed or squeezed as it passes through this opening into the wrist. Trauma or injury may cause an increase in pressure on the nerve as it passes under the ligament in the wrist. Repetitive motions can also lead to swelling in this area. And in some people the carpal tunnel is just smaller than in others.
Regardless of the cause, the symptoms are the same: tingling, numbness, shooting pain, loss of strength or decreased dexterity in the hand and fingers. Carpal tunnel syndrome usually begins progressively, that is, it starts with small symptoms that gradually become more noticeable and last longer. A common scenario is a person waking in the middle of the night because of the numbness in the hand. A shake of the hand and it goes away, allowing the person to go back to sleep. Then during the day a person might occasionally experience of fingers tingling or, possibly shooting pain with certain motions. The sensations come and go, but eventually become constant with tingling, pain and numbness that become difficult to ignore.
The condition might be alleviated by wearing a wrist brace or splint at night, as flexing the wrist while sleeping can aggravate the condition, and keeping the wrist straight during prolonged rest gives it a better chance of reducing the pressure in the carpal tunnel. In some cases it is necessary to wear the splint throughout the day and limit activity and repetitive motions of the wrist for at least two weeks to prevent symptom aggravation.
Acupuncture is often a successful treatment for mild to severe carpal tunnel symptoms. Acupuncture treatments trigger production of endorphins which decrease pain, reduce the local swelling and inflammation in the carpal tunnel itself, and help relax the muscles of the forearm. There are also several Chinese herbal formulas that help address the condition, that are often used to support acupuncture treatments.
Though an improvement is typically noted after the first few treatments, depending on the severity and duration of the symptoms, more treatments are often needed to achieve complete symptom resolution and maintain the results. In cases of carpal tunnel syndrome, success and length of treatment depends greatly on individual circumstances and the degree to which a person is able to decrease or stop any repetitive motion that may exacerbate the condition while undergoing treatment, allowing the pressure on the median nerve to be eliminated, and preventing further aggravation of the condition.
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