Barbra had been a lifelong friend. In fact several decades earlier I was ‘maid of honor’ at her wedding. Through the years she had been a chiropractic patient as the wear and tear from long hours working as a professional cosmologist in her own shop tore up her neck and back.
It was about 20 years ago when her wrist pain first hit. It was aggravated every time she used scissors on a client’s hair. After she retired she got into computers and now when she put her hand on a mouse she’d get spasms of pain in my various parts of her arm. I recommended switching to a trackball but it didn't help. She started a second career as an accountant but now was debating whether she could continue with that profession. She had gotten to the point where she had to move the trackball with her forearm while wearing clunky cock-up wrist braces.
She also had chronic neck pain. She experienced several whiplash accidents over her life and now had degeneration of her cervical discs. Years early she had considered neck surgery but Chiropractic care kept most of the pain at bay and gave her good function. Now, when her wrists flared up, she was having bouts of debilitating neck pain radiating down from the shoulder into her fingers.
I felt bad as I reviewed Barbara’s problem with her. As I saw it, there were a couple of things going on with her. Use of her hands over a long period of time as a beautician tore up her wrists and narrowed the ‘tunnel’ in the small bones of her hand with scar tissue. This injured the nerve that goes into her wrist causing it to swell all the way back up her arm and get ‘double-pinched’ where the nerve came out between her neck bones.
I realized I had taken Barbara for granted over the years and never really did intense treatment for her carpal tunnel syndrome- pretty much glossing over her complaints with a little therapy now and then when she complained. Facing imminent surgery we talked at length and decided to try some lifestyle changes as well as look to alternative therapies to see if we could avoid surgery.
The first thing we did was evaluate the ergonomics of her computer station. It was important that her computer screen was set up so that when she looked dead center at the screen her head and eyes were perfectly level. We accomplished this through a combination of adjusting her seat up a little and lowering her screen a small amount. We also moved the screen from off to the side to directly in front of her. Once that was accomplished we focused on her wrists at the keyboard. She bought a mouse pad with a padded wrist support.
The next step was to detail a change in her nutritional support. She was advised to maintain a minimum salt intake in her diet because salt causes the retention of water in the tissues which makes them swell and contributes to inflammation as well. The best way to approach lowering ones salt intake is just a matter of discontinuing adding it to food. A side benefit is weight loss as unsalted food is consumed typically in volumes 40% less than the same food with salt added!
We also supported her nutritionally with supplements including potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Along with minerals, vitamin D3 and vitamin B complex which are all necessary for nerve healing. Finally we advised her to take Curcumin for its potent anti-inflammatory role.
As for clinical treatment we began a series of eight acupuncture treatments. Needles were placed over the wrist points and a micro-current therapy was run through two of the needles. This provided a penetrating stimulation deep into the scarred tissues. This painless procedure reduces local swelling, inflammation and seems to help dissolve local adhesions contributing to the nerve entrapment. Patients often feel notable relief right after a single treatment.
After a couple acupuncture treatments Barbara noted a big change in her symptoms. She reported less pain and ability to work longer at her computer. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) often keeps people awake at night with pain and she reported sleeping much better. She put off scheduling her surgery and continued her treatments.
Surgery is certainly not the only approach for CTS and good surgical outcomes are not always guaranteed. Many early cases of CTS are treated by steroids and several randomized studies have demonstrated that acupuncture is just as effective as oral steroids in relieving symptoms of CTS. The benefit is that acupuncture does not bring the dangers to the table that strong medications do.
Doctors practicing acupuncture, who are experienced in CTS management, are happy to offer a safe alternative treatment for CTS. Some insurance plans cover acupuncture, most notably, Workers Compensation covers treatment if your doctor thinks it will help and, since CTS is most commonly seen as a work injury, this is a boon to patients.
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine are safe procedures and minimally invasive. The number of patients we have consulted who have not improved or who have worsened after surgery has convinced us that acupuncture, provided by a practitioner experienced in this approach to treatment, is highly beneficial and most effective when applied in the earliest stages of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Nutritional Nugget: Curcumin is derived from traditional Indian spice known as curry. It has probably received more Western based research than any other oriental herb. It’s anti-inflammatory and cell regulation roles demonstrate effectiveness in arthritis relief, cardiac conditions, and other inflammatory based diseases. It's even getting serious consideration as a cancer cure these days. The best way to utilize curcumin in therapeutic doses is to blend Turmeric powder or to break open curcumin capsules and blend the powder into whole milk or yogurt. 1000mg capsules can be taken directly as long as they are consumed with fatty food or, alternatively, taken as supplements in combination with bioperine (black pepper derivative) to aid absorption of this delicate nutrient.
Dr. Schwan is a Doctor of Chiropractic and a Diplomat of the International Academy of Medical Acupuncture. He is president of Schwan Chiropractic & Acupuncture Clinic with offices in Toledo and Perrysburg, OH. Doctor Schwan is available to speak at your group on a variety of Health topics. He may be contacted at Dr_Schwan@acupuncturetoledo.com. For more information on Alternative medicine please visit our website at www.acupuncturetoledo.com.