Carpal Tunnel and the Upper Cervical Spine
Problems in the neck or cervical spine can be as simple as poor posture and muscle tension, or as serious as disc bulges, arthritis, or spinal misalignments, also referred to as subluxations.
A proper evaluation for CTS should include an exam of the entire length of the median nerve, starting at the neck and working down to the hands, wrists and fingers. Since the neck is the most common site for Double Crush to occur, a consultation with an Upper Cervical doctor would be in the best interests of any CTS sufferer, especially if they have been recommended for carpal tunnel surgery.
The purpose of Upper Cervical care is to correct misalignments in the neck that produce irritation to the nerve roots that extends to the wrist, hands and fingers. Clinical findings document that this can prevent the need for surgery.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a debilitating disorder caused by irritation or pressure to the median nerve which originates in the neck, runs through the shoulder, arm and forearm, and into the wrist and hand. It is one of the major nerves in the hand that provides sensation and movement for the thumb, index and middle fingers. CTS is often described as an aching pain with burning, tingling, and numbness in the wrist or hand and, occasionally, in the forearm. In some cases, muscle weakness, swelling and loss of temperature sensation may be present. Sufferers of carpal tunnel may begin to drop objects or have difficulty lifting small items or turning doorknobs.
Some think there is a higher incidence of CTS among those who do work which requires them to use their hands, wrists, or arms in a repetitive manner, but renowned hand surgeon, Dr. Charles Eaton, says there is no scientific evidence that shows such activities actually cause carpal tunnel syndrome.
Double Crush Syndrome & Carpal Tunnel
Stress to the median nerve commonly begins in the neck, where the median nerve begins. The nerve is then aggravated by added pressure or irritation anywhere from the neck to the wrist, which can then cause symptoms in the hand and fingers. This is called “Double Crush syndrome” and is widely referenced in the scientific and medical research journals as a consistent finding in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome. Pressure or irritation to the nerve roots as they exit the neck makes the median nerve more vulnerable to injury at the wrist.
A growing number of studies suggest that the Double Crush phenomenon is one of the most common causes of CTS. The prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, found that nearly 7 of every 10 CTS patients had nerve irritation in the neck. Another study found that 89% of carpal tunnel sufferers also had arthritis in the neck. Both studies suggest the vast majority of CTS patients actually have Double Crush phenomena.
This would explain the high failure rate of common medical treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome. Treatments directed solely at the wrist neglect possible nerve irritation or compression in the neck, which renders the lower nerves in the wrist more susceptible to injury. In this case, it is essential to first correct the cervical problem to allow the wrist condition to fully heal. A similar phenomenon can also occur with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) and cervical radiculopathy (tingling, pain down the arms).