Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a nagging disorder presenting discomfort and numbness. It effects thousands and is triggered by various types of repetitive work involving use of the hands. This handicap is a common reason for lost time at work, and disruption in sleep and daily activities. Though it can be fixed through surgery, other factors can help prevent its onset and lessen its severity.
CTS refers to the numbness, tingling and pain experienced particularly in the thumb, index finger, middle finger and part of the ring finger, of either hand. This occurs when one of the nerves (the median nerve) that innervates that hand gets pinched at the wrist. The nerve travels under ligaments and connective tissue, the carpal (wrist bones) tunnel. This tunnel can get injured or inflamed, leading to damage and irritation of the median nerve. This damage may come about due to ongoing repetitive movements, which is why this is a common injury among factory workers and typists. CTS is often treated with corrective surgery, a procedure that takes the pressure off of the median nerve by making a small incision, freeing up space in the carpal tunnel. Fortunately, the surgery is not too involved, and patients typically go home that day.
Surgery is not needed for every case of CTS. Wrist splints are usually recommended first, especially for those with repetitive work or pain at night. The wrist splints can be used as long as they are effective. Though research is lacking to strongly support these nutrients as cures for carpal tunnel pain, magnesium and B-6 are typically touted as effective and safe up to dosages of 500 mg and 100 mg, respectively. Starting dosages would be 250 mg of magnesium and 30-40 mg of B-6. Some clinicians have linked random cases of CTS to low thyroid function, though there might not be a cause and effect relationship [Source: Forman]. Patients with other signs of low thyroid function should have this possibility evaluated by a physician.
Other treatment options exist for those not wanting or not yet ready for surgery. Injections can be administered in the wrist area to help relieve pain, though this does not appear to be quite as beneficial as the surgery [Source: Hui]. Other treatments such as massage, acupuncture and physical therapy may also benefit carpal tunnel pain. Acupuncture is a fairly simple treatment with a much lower cost compared to surgery. Patients who suffer from carpal tunnel pain from repetitive work stress may need to discuss what can be done to prevent further pressure on the wrist with their health provider. Wrist splints and muscle strengthening exercises can help protect the wrist and prevent future damage. Even those who choose to have surgery should try to maintain a diet high in vegetables and fruits, and low in refined sugars, and drink plenty of water to help the body heal properly.