Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)
The carpal tunnel is a very small opening just below the base of the wrist, between the arm and the hand. It allows the median nerve to pass from the bones and the muscles of the forearm to the palm, the thumb, and the fingers. Because the opening is so small, it is vulnerable to pressure and swelling. Inflammation from overuse, hormonal changes, or arthritis causes the pain and the numbness of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). CTS may begin as a mild tingling that's worse in the morning or the evening and can progress to crippling, excruciating pain.
CTS has always afflicted people who consistently use their hands in a repetitive motion: Knitters, musicians, writers, grocery clerks, and assembly-line workers have traditionally suffered from the effects of CTS. But in the last decade, as work has increasingly centered on the personal computer, CTS has reached near-epidemic proportions. At least 10 percent of people who work at computers have CTS, and that number is projected to rise.
The best way to treat CTS is to prevent it from happening. If you work at a computer, use a wrist rest to relieve pressure on the carpal tunnel, and take a break every hour to rotate your hands. If you think you may already have CTS, see your doctor for a test called an electromyograph. If the test proves that you do have CTS, complementary therapies can help relieve your pain. Treatments include removing the source of pain when possible, improving circulation, and reducing swelling. Since a vitamin B6 deficiency has been linked to CTS, the complementary treatment also encourages the consumption of that nutrient. Specific treatments from a chiropractor, an acupuncturist, or an osteopath can be very effective in addressing the underlying structural cause of carpal tunnel syndrome. Surgery for this condition should be avoided, if at all possible, because of its high failure rate.
** All of these prescriptions below have been proven effective; level of effectiveness depends on the individual. Please consult your doctor when taking any and all supplements.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Prescription for Natural Cures by James F. Balch and Mark Stengler
Super Prescription #1 Vitamin B6
Take 100 mg three times daily. Studies show that this vitamin reduces the nerve inflammation that is found with carpal tunnel syndrome. Also, take a B-complex to prevent an imbalance of the other B vitamins.
Super Prescription # 2 Bromelain - LifeSource Product
Take 500 mg three times daily between meals. Look for products standardized to 2,000 M.C.U. (milk-clotting units) per 1,000 mg or 1,200 G.D.U. (gelatin-dissolving units) per 1,000 mg. Bromelain has a natural anti-inflammatory effect. Protease enzyme products also have this benefit.
Super Prescription #3 Boswellia (Boswellia serrata)
Take 1,200 to 1,500 mg of a standardized extract containing 60 to 65 percent boswellia acids, two to three times daily. It acts as a natural anti-inflammatory.
Super Prescription #4 Calcium / Magnesium – LifeSource Products - See All of our Cal/Mag Products. Take a complex containing 500 mg of calcium and 250 mg of magnesium twice daily. This reduces muscle tightness and nerve irritation.
Super Prescription #5 White Willow Bark - LifeSource Product Take a product standardized to contain at least 240 mg of salicin daily or 5 ml of the tincture form three times daily. This herbal extract reduces pain and inflammation.
Super Prescription #7 Ginkgo Biloba - LifeSource Products Take capsules twice daily of a product standardized to 24 percent flavone glycosides. Ginkgo improves circulation.
Symptoms can occur in one or both hands.
- Numbness, tingling, or pain in the thumb and the first three fingers
- Pain is worse at night and/or in the morning
- The weakness of the thumb and the first three fingers
- Inability to make a fist
- Pain may radiate to the forearm or the shoulder
- Continuous use of the fingers and the hand
- The constant vibration of the fingers and the hand (as in holding a jackhammer for long periods of time)
- Pregnancy or other hormonal changes that cause fluid retention
- Inflammatory arthritis in the wrist
- Bone spurs in the wrist
- Vitamin B6 deficiency
CTS is often brought on or made worse by pregnancy. If you're pregnant or nursing, check with your doctor before taking any herbs or supplements or making radical changes to your diet.
If you're overweight, there's a good chance you will find relief from the pain of CTS by following a wholesome diet based on whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and lean protein (especially beans and soy). This eating plan will help you lose weight safely and will take the pressure off the carpal tunnel.
Drink a glass of clean water every two waking hours to combat fluid retention.
A deficiency of vitamin B6 may be a cause of CTS, so consume plenty of beans, brewer's yeast, and wheat germ. Green leafy vegetables are good sources of B6 as well.
Green drinks are also good for reducing inflammation.
Foods to Avoid
Fluid retention puts pressure on the carpal tunnel, so eliminate sources of sodium from your diet.
Avoid saturated fat, which slows circulation.
- Use a cold compress to reduce swelling.
- Cigar and cigarette smoke disturbs the circulation. If you smoke, quit. If you're exposed to secondhand smoke, remove yourself from the smoky environment as much as possible.
- Pregnant women whose CTS is brought on by edema will find that their symptoms disappear after their babies are born.
- If your CTS has been caused by overuse of the wrist and the fingers, stop all repetitive hand motions for a few days. When you return to your work, you'll need to alternate repetitive tasks with other activities. Take a break every hour to rest and to rotate your wrists, and try to keep your work environment warm and dry, as cool, humid conditions can aggravate CTS.
- If you work on a computer, make sure your screen is two feet away from your body and slightly below your line of vision. Also, use a wrist rest. Most employers are now aware of CTS and will provide ergonomic workspace if you ask for it.