Not Every Symptom of Numbness is Carpal Tunnel
What Is Causing Your Numbness and What to do About It.
***Disclaimer: This is for educational advice only. While you can implement some of these strategies into your routine, it's not intended to diagnose or be specific rehab advice. If you continue to have consistent symptoms you should be assessed by a trusted professional around you.
I see many patients that come to me saying they have “Carpal Tunnel”, however very few people really understand what that is. This is a problem, because if you don’t have carpal tunnel, but are getting advice for carpal tunnel you may be delaying the proper care which can prevent you from finding a solution long term!
First, carpal tunnel is a compromise of the Median nerve specifically at the site of the Carpal Tunnel (hence the name). This anatomical structure is comprised of the crescent shaped collection of carpal bones in the wrist, with the carpal ligament comprising the roof. Due to overuse with no recovery strategies in place, this ligament can become very thick and the tunnel gets smaller, which is an issue because there is a lot of traffic in this tunnel! When this happens, the median nerve gets compressed which results in loss of strength and feeling in the hand specifically around the median nerve distribution (described later in this blog).
Keep in mind this is only ONE area of potential compromise of ONE nerve. There are 4 other areas of potential areas of compromise of the median nerve alone, and between the Ulnar and Radial nerve the more than 10 other potential areas of compromise. SO statistically speaking, your symptoms of numb hands are NOT likely carpal tunnel.
But lets take a step back and talk about the thought process of how to frame your numb hand issues.
When I hear the word "numbness", I immediately think either vascular or neurological issues. So how do you know if your hand numbness is a issue with nerves or blood flow? Typically when you have decreased blood flow to the hands, that hand will appear more pale, is colder to the touch, and when you squeeze the finger tips it take more than 5 seconds to refill that blanched appearance.
If it's a neurological deficit you'll have a sensation of pins an needles, maybe sharp shooting pain with specific positions of the neck/arm, or have a feeling of less sensitivity to light touch. If it's severely compromised you may even start to notice loss of strength or muscle mass (at this point you need to see a doctor and find out solution asap).
This blog is geared towards helping you with the neurological deficit which typically effects the hands in 1 of 4 ways depending on where the nerve is compromised:
Altered sensation in the thumb, pointer, and maybe middle finger (Median Nerve distribution)
Altered sensation in the pinky, ring, and maybe middle finger (Ulnar Nerve distribution)
Altered sensation more on the back of the hand and pointer/middle fingers. (Radial nerve distribution)
Altered sensation of entire hand (Compromise is the whole nerve bundle around the neck or arm pit)
When this is the case, I focus on a combination of all of these nerve glides along with some strategies to improve thoracic mobility and correct forward head posture.
Which one of these sounds like your symptoms? Make a note and watch the associated videos below. But read this last paragraph to make sure you understand the most important part of recovery.
After you have an understanding of which nerve may be compromised, you need to consider why it may be that way. The most common reason is repetitive stress patterns (this includes prolonged postures like having a rounded back and forward head) that lock down certain muscle groups or tissues that prevent the slide and glide of the that nerve through the tissues.
THE MOST IMPORTANT PART to resolving these type of nerve issues is:
Identify the movement or repetitive motion that's creating the bad stress pattern and modify it by decreasing time spent doing it or inserting movement snacks frequently if you can't eliminate the movement.
Begin to add in the associated nerve glide into your daily routine to maintain proper movement of that nerve.
***Nearly all injections, surgeries, or treatment for numb hands can be avoided by simply taking action early when you start to feel symptoms. The longer symptoms hang around, the more likely there will be a need for some kind of intervention.
Instructional Video Library:
Here are some of the Postural drills I like to add into the mix when there is a whole hand Numbness scenario.
For more information on treatment or online programming for sustainable exercise and pain relief, visit www.ChiroStrength.com or call the office 931-321-1414 to schedule your FREE consultation with Dr. Dunaway