fbpx 5 Reasons to See a Chiropractor for Carpal Tunnel - Chiro One

When most people think about seeing a chiropractor, it’s usually for back pain or neck pain. But seeing a chiropractor for carpal tunnel? You bet. Here’s why.

From brushing your teeth in the morning to that first sip of coffee or tea, right up until the moment you set your alarm and finally climb into bed, if you are living with carpal tunnel syndrome, the symptoms are likely affecting just about every part of your day.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can make it difficult to do the things that make up your day, from driving to cooking, holding your kids, or even carrying your handbag or groceries. For those who use a computer all day, perform work that requires force, repetitive movements, or the use of high pressure or vibrating equipment, there is not only an increased risk of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome; the symptoms of CTS can be especially difficult to live with, manage, or treat.

If you’re considering whether to see a chiropractor for carpal tunnel syndrome pain, here’s what you need to know.

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) affects up to 5% of the general population. Located on the palm side of your hand, the carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway surrounded by bones and ligaments. Carpal tunnel syndrome is the result of pressure on the median nerve which runs through the carpal tunnel.

Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel can vary between people but one thing they have in common is that in most cases, symptoms start slowly and gradually worsen as the condition progresses.

The most common symptoms of CTS include:

  • Pain. This can be limited to the wrist, or it can radiate into the palm, thumb, or fingers, or even up into the forearm or shoulder.
  • Tingling or shock-like sensations
  • Burning sensation
  • Weakness in the hand and wrist, including difficulty grasping objects

Understanding the top causes

The causes of CTS are varied, and in some cases, there are multiple factors which contribute to CTS. Carpal tunnel syndrome most commonly results from problems in the anatomy of the wrist, health problems, or repetitive hand motions which put pressure on the median nerve which runs through the carpal tunnel.

Other causes include:

Accidents & Injuries. A fracture or dislocation in the wrist can deform the wrist bones, altering the space within the carpal tunnel and compressing the nerve within.

Anatomic Factors. People who naturally have smaller carpal tunnels may be at greater risk of CTS.

Biological Sex. Women are at greater risk of CTS than men, possibly because the carpal tunnel area is smaller in women, and also because conditions like pregnancy can trigger CTS.

Nerve-damaging Conditions. Some chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, increase the risk of nerve damage, including damage to the median nerve which causes carpal tunnel pain.

Inflammatory Conditions. Rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions can affect the lining around the tendons in the wrist.

Other Medical Conditions. Medical conditions including thyroid disorders, kidney failure and lymphedema, can increase the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Medications. Research has indicated a link between carpal tunnel syndrome and the use of specific cancer treatment drugs.

Pregnancy & Menopause. Fluid retention is common during pregnancy and menopause. This can cause swelling that may increase pressure within the carpal tunnel, irritating the median nerve.

Can it be Reversed?

If treated early, CTS can be reversed. Left untreated, the nerve damage can become permanent.

Treatment options for CTS include:

  • Wrist splints or braces. Worn primarily at night, these supports hold wrist still while you sleep to minimize pressure on the nerve.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs (such as ibuprofen), may help relieve pain in the short term, but will not reverse or effectively treat the condition.
  • Corticosteroids. In this method, corticosteroid medications are injected into the carpal tunnel to decrease inflammation and swelling, which relieves pressure on the median nerve. An ultrasound may be used to guide these injections.
  • Surgery. Surgery may be indicated if symptoms are severe or don’t respond to other treatments. The goal of carpal tunnel surgery is to relieve pressure by cutting the ligament pressing on the median nerve.
  • Chiropractic care. Chiropractic care can be an effective, non-invasive treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome. Chiropractors can help relieve tension, strain, and compression of the nerves through manual manipulations and hands-on techniques.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome vs. Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Thoracic Outlet Syndrome share many of the same symptoms, but they are different conditions, each with a root cause that lies in different parts of the body.

Unlike CTS, which begins in the wrist, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) affects the nerves between your collar bone and your first rib. It is commonly caused by physical trauma, anatomical defects (such as an extra rib), or by pregnancy. Diagnosing TOS can be difficult, especially as a root cause is not always clear. That’s why it’s important to see a doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms of TOS or CTS, and to have a confirmed diagnosis before seeking treatment.

Symptoms of TOS include:

  • Abnormal color in the hand*
  • Pain and inflammation* in the arm or hand
  • Pale fingers or hands*
  • Diminished pulse*
  • Cold hands, fingers, or arms*
  • Numbness and tingling in the hands
  • Throbbing sensation or lump near the collar bone*
*indicates symptoms not associated with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

5 Reasons to see a chiropractor for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

  1. It has been show to relieve CTS symptoms. While there is no one mode of treatment guaranteed to work on everyone, two studies have shown strong results supporting the effectiveness of chiropractic treatment for CTS pain. In both studies, significant improvements were demonstrated in range of motion, finger sensation, and pain reduction.
  2. They’ll get to the root cause of your pain. Your chiropractor will not only diagnose your pain to confirm that you’re dealing with CTS; they’ll also help you identify patterns of movement, patterns in your routine, and any anatomical factors that could be contributing to your CTS pain.
  3. Chiropractic care is medication-free. If you don’t want to use pain medications or NSAIDs or cannot take them, chiropractic care can provide effective, medication-free pain relief.
  4. Chiropractic care is non-invasive. Chiropractic care offers effective, non-invasive treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome, especially for those who do not want surgery or are not good candidates for surgery. Gentle chiropractic adjustments to the wrist, elbow, cervical spine, or other areas can relieve tension and reduce compression on the median nerve.
  5. Chiropractic care can help prevent recurrence of CTS. By correcting poor posture, spinal misalignments and joint imbalances, chiropractic care can help minimize the risk of developing CTS or reduce the risk of recurrence. Chiropractic care can also provide tips on proper ergonomics for those at the highest risk for CTS – for example, pregnant woman, or workers who perform repetitive tasks daily as part of their job.

How to Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Some factors, like medical conditions, pregnancy, or medication use, can make CTS difficult to predict – or prevent. However, even for those at higher risk for CTS, including those who perform repetitive tasks as part of their jobs, there are steps they can take to minimize risk.

Let it go. Relax your grip when holding your phone, steering wheel, and even when holding a pen or pencil. Be gentle when texting or tapping the keys on your laptop or phone.

Take 5. Short, frequent breaks to gently stretch and bend the hands and wrists can relieve pressure. They’re especially important if your routine puts you at higher risk of CTS.

Set yourself up for success. Use good ergonomics when driving, at work, and when sitting at a desk.

Stand (and sit) up straight. Poor posture affects the whole body – wrists included. Slouching shortens the neck and shoulder muscles, compressing the nerves in your neck, which can affect the wrists, fingers and hands.

Warm things up. Hand pain and stiffness is more common when working in a cold environment.

How to relieve carpal tunnel pain at home

While these methods won’t reverse Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, they can support your gentle chiropractic adjustments and help you find relief from your symptoms.

  • Ice. Apply ice to your wrist for 10–15 minutes, once or twice an hour, to numb pain and reduce swelling. You can cover an ice pack with a towel and wrap it around the base of your wrist. You can also soak your hand in an ice bath for 10–15 minutes.
  • Splint. Wear a snug, non-tight wrist splint at night to help ease pain, especially at night. You can buy these without a prescription at most drugstores or pharmacies.
  • Gentle stretching. Take breaks to gently rotate your wrists, stretch your palms, and stretch your fingers. Here are a few moves to try:
    • Wrist rotations. Rotate your wrists by moving only your hands up, down, left, and right. Repeat up to four times.
    • Finger stretch. Stretch your fingers wide and then relax them and repeat up to four times.
    • Thumb stretch. Using your opposite hand, push your thumb backward until you feel a gentle stretch. Repeat up to four times.
    • Prayer stretch. Place your hands under your chin, palms together in a prayer position. Push your hands down to your waist until you feel a moderate stretch. Hold for up to 30 seconds. Repeat between two and four times.

Ready for relief from your Carpal Tunnel Syndrome pain? Find a Chiro One clinic near you.


Dr. Michelle Blanton

Chiro One of Oak Forest, IL
Dr. Michelle earned her Doctor of Chiropractic degree at National University of Health Sciences, where she was vice president of the Student American Black Chiropractor Association (SABCA). Her personal mission is to serve as many people as possible through chiropractic. In her free time, she likes to travel, watch movies, read novels, volunteer at her church, and spend time with her family.

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