Here’s how carpal tunnel syndrome works: The median nerve, which supplies nerve to the hands, runs through the carpal tunnel, a literal tunnel that is made up of bones and tendons. When those bones and tendons become inflamed, they in turn compromise the space that the nerve has to move in—creating the symptoms of CTS. It’s important to know that women are three times more likely then men to develop this syndrome—most likely due to a smaller tunnel in females.
So what causes it? Often the cause is repetitive motion such as typing, carrying heavy objects or continuous vibrations. CTS can also result from injury to the wrist, fluid retention, cysts, tumors, bone spurs or anything else that creates a space constriction for the median nerve. Health conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disorders can be linked to CTS, as can pregnancy. Basically anything that could cause the tunnel’s bones and tendons to become inflamed can cause CTS.
Symptoms include swelling, numbness, tingling, a burning sensation, decreased sensation, pain and a decreased ability to perform regular function with the affected hands and wrists. Symptoms may be worse in the morning or evening.
Conventional treatment calls for non-steroidal anti-inflammatories such as aspirin or Ibuprofen, and diuretics to decrease swelling. Prescription medications such as corticosteroids or lidocaine may be prescribed, but should be used under a physician’s care. Surgery may be performed to release pressure in the area, but it has been noted that there is a high failure rate with this procedure.
I recently saw great success with a client with the following protocol—they came back claiming that the treatment was the best and only thing they had found to relieve their debilitating CTS symptoms. The regimen includes the following supplements, which can be taken twice daily:
Thorne Meriva Phytosome, a time-released turmeric with potent anti-inflammatory properties.
Rainbow Light Pain-Eze, a fast-acting botanical pain relief formulation suitable for long-term use.
Heel Traumeel drops, a fantastic homeopathic blend with arnica; apply topically to the wrists and take internally.
Bromelain, a potent anti-inflammatory derived from pineapple.
Herb Pharm’s St. John's Wort—apply topically to wrists for anti-inflammatory action.
The following can be helpful practices for the evening:
Contrast hydrotherapy—prepare two soaking tubs (one with an ice cold bath and the other with very hot water (add Epsom salts). Submerge wrists for two minutes in hot water, then 30 seconds in cold. Repeat this cycle at least three times, ending with cold water. This will help to improve circulation and decrease inflammation.
Castor oil packs—apply castor oil topically and drive it into the skin with heat for strong anti-inflammatory action. Perform nightly for best results.
Epsom salt soaks—submerge wrists into a warm Epsom salt bath for relaxing relief.
After all that, here’s what my client said, "Thank you for all your advice. This treatment worked when no others did, and will be continued. The patient will continue to see her medical doctor to monitor progress." If you suffer from carpal tunnel, I hope some of these natural solutions can help alleviate your symptoms.
To diagnose more office aches and pain, look here.
Kate Brainard, is a naturopathic doctor based in San Diego, California. A graduate of Bastyr University’s doctorate program in Naturopathic Medicine, she works for Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy, a holistic pharmacy staffed with expert practitioners. She currently manages the Pharmaca in La Jolla and spends time educating customers on supplements, health, and lifestyle choices.