If you, like 10 million Americans, are suffering from numbness or weakness in one or both of your hands you may be asking yourself, What is going on? Should I be concerned?

When patients come to my office complaining of sensation changes or weakness in their hand, the first thing that I think of is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

The Carpal Tunnel is an actual tunnel in the hand that is created when a piece of tissue called the Carpal ligament passes between two bones on either side of your hand like a canopy.  Passing through this tunnel is several tendons that move your hand and wrist and an important nerve called the Median Nerve.  This nerve sends signals to the thumb, pointer finger and middle finger.

If the Carpal ligament gets swollen, it can take up some of the space of the tunnel and compress the Median Nerve.  When the Median nerve is compressed, it can't get its signal to or from the hand and you lose sensation or strength.  If left untreated, continued loss of sensation and strength can become permanent.

Now, let's talk about what causes swelling in the Carpal ligament. There is a lot of debate around this topic but according to a review by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), what actually causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is not clear.  One common belief is that the condition occurs because of highly repetitive movements or wrist position. Newer research on Carpal Tunnel Syndrome points to non-repetitive overuse conditions such as hypothyroidism, diabetes, obesity, trauma, or arthritis.

If you are experiencing sensation changes in the hand and think you may be suffering from one of these conditions, you should reach out to your primary care physician for help.  If you believe that it is coming from something like using a keyboard, gripping tools or texting away on your phone, I would recommend seeking the help of a physician or therapist who specializes in releasing the Median nerve.  I personally use a form of therapy called PATCH Technique, which works to free up nerves from entrapment or increase flexibility of tight muscles.

For at home care and prevention, be sure to take breaks throughout the day from the computer, phone etc in order to stretch out the forearm and hand.

Here are two stretches that you can do through the day.  These stretches should be felt in the hand and forearm.  Do each of these with a 3 second hold for 10 reps.

As with any ache or pain, always seek the help of a medical professional to properly diagnose the issue.  If you are diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, try conservative measures first. If you have tried conservative care with less than optimal results, you may want to seek the help of a hand surgeon who can open up the carpal tunnel through surgery.  Good luck!

Dr. Legere is a Chiropractic physician specializing in athletic injuries and physical pain. He is a published author, medical consultant to professional athletes and musicians and the creator of PATCH Technique which is a conservative approach to help people dealing with muscular or soft tissue injuries. More information on Dr. Legere can be found at patchchiro.com.

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