Category Archives: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Yankton Chiropractor Discusses the Many Faces of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome


Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) was first reported in the late 1800’s and the first surgery was noted in 1933. In the beginning, CTS surgery was rarely performed, reportedly because the nerve pinch was present somewhere before the median nerve reached the wrist or carpal tunnel. In brief, possible compression sites include the cervical nerve roots (C5-7), the brachial plexus, thoracic outlet, above the elbow, in the proximal and/or mid forearm, and finally at the wrist / carpal tunnel.

Estimating the frequency of CTS is challenging due to the fact that the pinch or entrapment may include more than one area before the wrist resulting in double and multiple crush syndromes. One European study reported the incidence of CTS at 5.8% in women and 0.6% in men while another reported 3.4% in the United States. Even the causation of CTS is all over the board. For example, the annual incidence of CTS in automobile workers ranges between 1-10%, while in a fish processing plant, it was reported to be as high as 73%! To make this even more challenging, the cause of CTS is commonly associated with other conditions such as diabetes and pregnancy. In diabetics, CTS ranges between 14% and 30% and those who are pregnant have a 2% incidence. Even harder to report is the incidence of median nerve pinching proximal to the wrist as this ranges between as little as 1% to as high as 75% for pronator tunnel syndrome in already symptomatic women. Gender is also a factor as women are reported to be four times more likely to develop CTS than men. If there is NO other condition associated with CTS, the term “idiopathic” is applied, and this reportedly occurs 43% of the time.

Another issue making CTS a challenge to diagnose is the many risk factors associated with it, and sometimes studies are published that contradict one another about the possible risk factors. There are studies that report CTS is more likely to occur with conditions including: 1) Jobs or activities associated with wrist flexion or extension; 2) Hysterectomy without ovary removal; 3) Obesity; and 4) Varicosities in men. Some studies indicate risk criteria such as: 1) Use of birth control pills; 2) Age at menopause; 3) Diabetes; 4) Thyroid dysfunction; 5) Rheumatism; 6) Typing; and, 7) Pinch grasping. One study reported the highest incidence to occur in those with previous wrist fracture (Colles’ fracture), and common conditions included rheumatoid arthritis, hormonal agents or ovary removal, diabetes, and pregnancy. Another study reported obesity and hypothyroid as being risk factors, but not all studies support that theory. Certain medications have been reported to be associated with higher CTS risk including: 1) Insulin, 2) Sulfonylureas (diabetes meds); 3) Metformin; and 4) Thyroxin.

As doctors of chiropractic, we perform a thorough history, examination, and offer MANY non-surgical, non-pharmaceutical ways of treating CTS. Some of these approaches include: 1) Joint and soft tissue manipulation of the neck, shoulder, elbow, forearm, wrist, and hand; 2) Wrist splinting, especially at night; 3) Vitamin B6 and anti-inflammatory nutrients; 4) Home exercises for the neck, arm and hand; 5) Work station / ergonomic evaluations; 6) Dietary counseling for various conditions listed previously; 7) Co-management with primary care, rheumatology, neurology, orthopedics, and others.

We realize you have a choice in whom you consider for your health care provision and we sincerely appreciate your trust in choosing our service for those needs.  If you, a friend, or family member requires care for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, we would be honored to render our services.  Visit for more information.


Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: More “Fun Facts!” | Yankton Chiropractor | Brian Olson DC

Did you know that Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) can affect anyone? None of us are immune to developing CTS as roughly 1 out of 20 of us will develop CTS in our lifetime! This month, let’s look at some of the risk factors for developing CTS.   1)  Race: Caucasians carry the greatest risk of developing CTS.

2)  Gender: Women are three times more likely than men to develop CTS. This may be because female wrists are smaller and shaped a little differently than male wrists, but hormonal differences are probably the most important reason for this variance.

3)  Pregnancy: Up to 62% of pregnant women develop CTS. This is thought to be due to the excess fluid retention that normally occurs during pregnancy and most likely stems from the elevation in hormone levels that NORMALLY occurs during pregnancy. The prevalence in the first, second, and third trimesters is 11%, 26%, and 63%, respectively, thus supporting the fact that the risk increases with the length of the pregnancy. Though CTS usually resolves after giving birth, symptoms can continue for as long as three years following delivery!

4)  Birth Control Pill (BCP): The use of BCPs increases CTS risk due to an increase in hormonal levels similar to the CTS risk increase during pregnancy.

5)  Occupational: Workers in highly repetitive, hand-intensive occupations (such as line work, sewing, finishing, meat processing, poultry or fish packing) have a higher rate of developing CTS.

6)  Injury to the wrist or hand: An obvious example is a wrist fracture from a slip and fall, sports injury, or blunt trauma like a car accident. When there is a direct pinch on the median nerve, nerve damage can occur quite quickly, and as a result, the onset of symptoms can be very fast. Less obvious injuries, which usually have significantly slower onsets, include repetitive motion injuries, often referred to as “cumulative trauma disorders” and include a group of conditions such as tendonitis, sprain/strain, bursitis, and other types of soft tissue injuries.

7)  Certain conditions: Nerve damaging conditions that can cause CTS include diabetes and alcoholism. Other conditions that can contribute and/or cause CTS include menopause, obesity, thyroid disorders, kidney failure, and more.

8)  Inflammatory conditions: These include several types of arthritis such as rheumatoid, lupus, and others. Osteoarthritis is technically NOT an “inflammatory” condition but it can cause CTS by compressing the median nerve via a bone spur formed within the carpal tunnel.

9)  Faulty work stations: A job site has A LOT to do with whether or not a person develops CTS. Though jobs that require fast, repetitive movements pose the greatest risk (see #5 above), other work-related factors that may be controllable can also significantly contribute to the development of CTS. Some of these include the shape of tools such as screwdriver handles shaped like a gun (pistol) which allow for better alignment of the wrist than a “normal” straight screwdriver handle. Another is a power tool that may have too much vibration or torques too hard at the end of a cycle. A handle that is too cold/hard (e.g., metal handle) or that may be too large for the worker’s hand is an additional factor to consider. Positioning the work so that the wrists can stay straight vs. bent can be VERY helpful. In fact, if some of these “ergonomic” factors are not fixed, CTS can be next to impossible to remedy. Also, poor posture in the back, neck, and the rest of the body can result in compensatory faulty postures elsewhere. Look in a mirror and poke your chin out towards the mirror. Now look at your shoulders. See how they roll forward and feel the strain in your upper back and neck? Keep your chin tucked in, NOT out. This can make a BIG difference in your posture!

We realize you have a choice in whom you consider for your health care provision and we sincerely appreciate your trust in choosing our service for those needs.  If you, a friend, or family member requires care for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, we would be honored to render our services. Visit for more information.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome CTS “Facts”


WHAT is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)? CTS occurs when pressure is applied to the median nerve which travels from the neck, through the shoulder, upper arm, elbow, forearm, and through the carpal tunnel where the “pinch” is located. The median nerve innervates most of the palm of the hand, the thumb, the index finger, middle finger, and the thumb side of the ring finger. The carpal tunnel is made up of eight little bones in the wrist that form the arch and a ligament that forms the floor. There are nine muscle tendons, the median nerve, as well as blood vessels that travel through the tunnel.

WHAT are the symptoms of CTS? The “classic” symptoms include burning, itching, tingling, and/or numbness of the second to fourth fingers with the need to shake or “flick” the fingers to “wake up the hand.” When present long enough, or when the pressure is hard enough on the nerve, weakness in the grip occurs and accidental dropping of tools, coffee cups, and so on can occur. Pressure on the nerve increases when the wrist is bent backwards or forwards, especially for long time frames and/or when the wrist is moving in a fast, repetitive manner with jobs like carpentry using vibrating tools, a screw driver, hand drill, a hammer, line production work, waitressing, and so on. Often, symptoms are first noticed at night, as we tend to sleep with our wrists bent and tucked under our chin or neck. Symptoms can also occur during the day, especially when driving or when performing repetitive work. Difficulties buttoning a shirt, making a fist, grasping small objects and/or performing manual tasks are common complaints of CTS.

WHAT are some causes of CTS? CTS is most commonly caused by a combination of factors that result in swelling of the tendons that travel through the carpal tunnel. This includes over working the arm and hand in any of the jobs described above, but it is more likely to happen when conditions that create generalized swelling occur. Some of these conditions include trauma (like a sprained wrist), hypothyroidism, an over-active pituitary gland, during menstruation or pregnancy, menopause, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, mechanical wrist problems, repetitious work (work stress), or the repeated use of vibratory hand tools. It is also possible to develop a cyst (like a ganglion) or a fatty tumor within the tunnel. CTS is also more common with obesity, but sometimes, no logical cause can be identified!

WHO is at risk of developing CTS? Women are three to four times more likely to develop CTS. This may be because of the hormonal aspects described above and/or the relative smaller wrist, which results in a smaller carpal tunnel. There’s also an increased risk of CTS in people over the age of 50. Other at risk individuals include diabetics, people with hormonal imbalances (taking birth control pills, pregnancy, hypothyroid, etc.), and people who work on assembly lines.

How is CTS diagnosed? EARLY diagnosis and treatment is KEY to a successful outcome! The physical exam includes assessing the structures of the neck and entire upper extremity, as the pinch is often in more than one place. A blood test for thyroid disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis is also practical. Other tests that may help us diagnose CTS can include and EMG (nerve test) and/or x-ray/MRI. Next month, we’ll discuss treatment and prevention!

We realize you have a choice in whom you consider for your health care provision and we sincerely appreciate your trust in choosing our service for those needs.  If you, a friend, or family member requires care for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, we would be honored to render our services.