Carpal tunnel syndrome is largely understood to start in the wrist. Inflammation causes irritation on the nerves of the wrist, causing carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms. You can read more about carpal tunnel here in our carpal tunnel guide, and part 2 here.
But what if carpal tunnel isn’t just in the wrist? What if, instead of being a problem of the wrist, it was a problem of the median nerve at various places in the neck, shoulder, arm, and forearm?
You see, nerve pain in the arm is often a common symptom of people with neck problems. Neck problems like:
That is because the nerves of the arm all start their journey by leaving from the the neck.
They come together in branches from the middle and lower parts of the neck, traveling down below the shoulder joint in a configuration called the brachial plexus. Depending on which branch of the brachial plexus is irritated or compressed, medicine has several different names of conditions.
For example, the median nerve, the nerve involved in carpal tunnel syndrome, can be irritated in the elbow, and there it causes something called Pronater Teres syndrome. If it is irritated at the forearm, it is called Anterior Interosseous Syndrome.
Regardless of where the symptoms are, it is still the same nerve, and its upper most portion still travels from the neck, below the shoulder, and down the arm. Which means any irritation in the neck is more likely to show up as irritation and symptoms down stream.
This theory is called the double crush theory. And while it still needs more research, it can explain why patients who appear to have more than one irritation to the nerves of their arm don’t always respond well to carpal tunnel surgery.
If the carpal tunnel symptoms are partially coming from the patient’s neck or shoulder, then surgery on the wrist is not going to solve irritation in the neck or the shoulder.
Does that make sense?
So, how do you know if irritation above your wrist is contributing or even causing your carpal tunnel syndrome? A great choice is to talk to the people that can gently address the problem joint alignment that is responsible for this irritation! Our Anchorage upper cervical chiropractic practice, with its focus on the health of the neck in particular, is a great place to find out if you can help heal yourself from carpal tunnel, with better spinal alignment.
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