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Fix Your Carpal Tunnel

If you’ve read a previous blog post by us, it won’t surprise you that we’re going to back up and discuss how to identify carpal tunnel before we talk about how to fix it. Correctly diagnosing a problem is key to solving it. If we don’t have the correct diagnosis, it won’t matter how many times you do the exercises at the bottom of this post. Odds are, you still won’t get relief. So, let’s discuss how to discern what carpal tunnel is and what it is not.

Diagnosing Carpal Tunnel

Carpal tunnel is an entrapment of a part of the median nerve as it enters the hand. The whole median nerve does not get trapped. There is a branch – the palmar branch of the median nerve – that goes above the tunnel. This branch gives sensation to the palm and a good portion of your thumb.

Yes, you read that correctly. True carpal tunnel does not cause numbness and tingling in your whole hand. It typically causes numbness and tingling of your index and middle finger. You may have numbness on the side of your ring finger that is close to your middle finger. You could also experience numbness on the tip of your thumb.

When your numbness extends into your hand and especially up your forearm, it is unlikely that you have carpal tunnel syndrome. If you are experiencing this, you likely have dysfunction in your median nerve. However, it is caused by something other than the carpal tunnel. There are plenty of muscles that can put stress on the median nerve and cause numbness to occur in your hand. Your neck can also cause numbness and tingling in your hand or forearm.

If you do not have carpal tunnel as described above, the exercises we go over below may not help you. Instead, we suggest setting up an appointment with a healthcare professional (preferrably us) to get a proper diagnosis. If you do have carpal tunnel, keep reading. You’re about to get some tools that we use with clients who struggle with this!

This image was taken as a screenshot from the Ess. Anatomy 5 app on an iPhone.

carpal tunnel

Treating Carpal Tunnel

Nerves require space to move and blood flow to function healthy. They are very sensitive to changes in both of these things as well as inflammation in your body. When treating a nerve, we get the best results when we address all three of these components.

Step 1: Calm Down the Nerve

This step is all about decreasing the inflammation in the nerve. The more inflammation there is, the more the nerve will cause you discomfort. A few things that help are –

  • Sleeping 7-8 hours per night
  • Temporarily eliminating alcohol consumption
  • Eating more fruits and vegetables
  • Eating less processed foods
  • Exercise that gets your heart rate up high and keeps it there

Step 2: Increase Blood Flow to the Nerve

Blood flow increases with movement. Because of this, we move the nerve to increase blood flow. Any movement of the body will increase blood flow to your nerves and your nervous system. However, we can preferentially target the median nerve with specific movements.

We find that these two options get the best results. Both of these movements are called a “nerve floss.” It means we are shortening the nerve on one end while we lengthen it on the other end. When a nerve is experiencing too much inflammation, gliding the nerve back and forth works much better than stretching it. Stretching the nerve can worsen the inflammation.

Carpal Tunnel Relief – Option 1

Carpal Tunnel Relief – Option 2

Step 3: Give the Nerve Room to Move

While working on decreasing inflammation, we give the nerve more room to move. The less pressure there is on the nerve, the less discomfort you will have from your nerve. Here, we may employ any of the following tools to decrease pain –

  • Soft tissue mobilization or massage
  • Dry needling
  • Cupping (also known as myofascial decompression)
  • Joint mobilizations

Focusing on these three aspects – decreasing inflammation, giving the nerve space, increasing blood flow – give us good results in the clinic. If you give these a shot and find success with them, please reach out and let us know!

Carpal Tunnel in a Nutshell

There you have it! A quick overview of what carpal tunnel is and how to fix it. If you’re more of an auditory learner or prefer to watch things being explained to you, check out the video below. It goes over everything we just discussed and a little bit more!

carpal tunnel cupping

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