Tahoe Truckee health: Correcting hand numbness and pain
Special to the Sun
TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; Two nerves that supply the hand and arm commonly become symptomatic. The median nerve supplies and produces symptoms on the thumb side of the hand. The ulnar nerve supplies and produces symptoms on the pinky side.
The median nerve is often compressed in the wristand#8217;s carpal tunnel, in the wrist, resulting in carpal tunnel syndrome, also known as CTS. Mistakenly, most people think itand#8217;s the only place the median nerve can get trapped. There are seven additional pinch spots in the arm and neck that may produce symptoms.
The ulnar has its own tunnel, the tunnels of guyon, and when compressed it is called handlebar palsy, often found in bikers. The ulnar nerve has a less tortuous route, so it has only six additional places to get pinched. Nerves are often pinched in multiple places. The medical profession has given it its own diagnosis: the double crush syndrome.
Part of the reason people struggle with curing these nerve problems is the second most common compression near the elbow is neglected. People often have neck problems that also irritate the nerve. The carpal tunnel syndrome is more famous do to its higher prevalence. In a survey of supermarket checkers, 614 out of 982 reported symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
When these nerves get pinched you generally feel a and#8220;pins and needleand#8221; or and#8220;falling asleepand#8221; sensation that progresses to burning pain. It can start in the hand and wrist and work its way up into the elbow, shoulder and neck. It can also progress to muscle weakness, which may make you feel clumsy and have trouble manipulating small objects and drop things. The symptoms are often worse in the night and morning or after doing a repetitive motion activity. The higher the work load and the less rest the worse the symptoms get.
What causes nerve compressions is scar tissue that builds up around the nerves from doing repetitive motions improperly. The best example is typing on a key board and using a mouse without the proper posture and support, but can also happen using tools. One tool often not thought of as a problem but certainly is in Truckee/Tahoe is a snowblower. People with rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, or other metabolic conditions like thyroid disease may be more likely to develop these nerve problems. These conditions affect the nerves directly, making them more vulnerable to compression. Pregnancy may also cause nerve problems.
What to do initially is rest, ice and alter your repetitive motions by correcting your biomechanics and posture. If that is not enough, try anti-inflammatory medication after checking with your doctor. Limit the anti-inflammatory medication due to side effects. The most critical one in nerve, tendon, ligament and muscle injuries is they interfere with healing of these structures. Early diagnosis and treatment are important to avoid permanent damage to the nerves.
To get results from the neck to the hand, include body work like Active Release Techniques to break up the scar tissue, rehabilitation to correct posture abnormalities and muscle imbalances. If there are neck alignment problems, spinal adjustments from a chiropractor will help. Modification of your work station with an ergonomic keyboard, zero tension mouse and proper seating will be a big help. A wrist brace called a cock up splint worn at night and during repetitive motions are available at pharmacies. If Vitamin B-6 is deficient this will also irritate the nerve: We can check this with a blood test. If you are having the problem on your bike, get a bike fit and try using Ergon the ergonomic hand grip.
and#8212; Dr. Barry Triestman practices chiropractic, sports medicine, active release techniques, and Pilates based rehabilitation in Truckee and send questions to truckeechiropractor.com