DEAR DR. GOTT: You recently answered a letter on carpal tunnel syndrome. I am a 74-year-old woman who has had tremendous relief from acupuncture for about 12 years. Back then, I had six treatments, and, until recently, I have had few symptoms. Now, owing to overuse of my hands gardening, cooking, using the computer, etc., I am starting to have trouble again. Still, I do not awaken in the night and have to get up and shake my hands as I once did. Have you other input on this?
DEAR READER: The carpal tunnel is literally a passageway on each palm side of the wrist that protects the main nerve to the hand and accompanying tendons responsible for allowing the fingers to bend. The syndrome occurs when pressure is placed on the median nerve, causing pain, tingling, numbness and eventual weakness of the affected hand. Repetitive motion for extended periods of time, such as swinging a hammer, and diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, some thyroid problems and amyloid deposits are a few of the possible causes. Amyloid is an abnormal protein manufactured in bone marrow. Symptoms of the syndrome typically begin slowly but can progress to the stage at which a physician should be consulted.
Confirmation might be made by an electromyography or through a nerve-conduction study.
Initial nonsurgical control for mild nerve impairment might include a wrist splint, over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, supplemental vitamin B6 or a cortisone injection. Chiropractic therapy, acupuncture, yoga and a number of similar techniques for relaxation might also be appropriate. When conservative measures fail to produce positive results, surgery might follow. That decision is best left to you and your primary-care physician or specialist.
Chiropractic therapy is therapeutic manipulation of the spinal column and deep muscle massage that does not involve the use of drugs or surgery. It is performed by a qualified chiropractic doctor and based on the theory that a person’s health is determined by the condition of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems.
Acupuncture involves the ancient practice of inserting thin needles into the skin at strategic points throughout the body for relief from pain. Treatment plans commonly involve from six to 12 sessions over a period of a few months. Up to 20 needles will be used in a single treatment and will remain in place for up to 30 minutes.
Yoga is yet another ancient practice that combines relaxation and exercise to provide pain relief. Simply put, a person controls his or her breathing while going through a series of specific movements.
Tai chi has developed over the years into a gentle form of exercise aimed at reducing stress and anxiety. This Chinese art is known to help with a variety of health disorders.
If you are experiencing a return of symptoms, return to your acupuncturist for periodic maintenance, which is often found to be beneficial.
It goes without saying that if you perform repetitive motion in your line of work or at home, modify the practice as much as possible. Be sure to take frequent breaks to allow your hands to rest while performing these actions.
To provide related information, I am sending you a copy of my health report “Managing Chronic Pain.” Other readers who would like a copy should send a self-addressed stamped No. 10 envelope and a $2 check or money order to Newsletter, P.O. Box 167, Wickliffe, OH 44092. Be sure to mention the title.
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