FOCUS ON HEALTH
‘I have a wrist pain. Should I wear a brace?’
By Virginia Nsitem
A patient came to my office recently, complaining of right wrist pain. He explained that he uses his phone throughout the day to text and send messages. He also uses his computer to complete work and attend virtual meetings. His wrist pain began a few months ago, and he noticed some tingling in the thumb and 2nd finger of his right hand. He sometimes feels weakness in the right hand and on occasion, drops his phone or cup of coffee. He asked me if he had carpal tunnel syndrome, and if wearing a wrist brace would relieve his symptoms.
The Wrist Joint
The carpal tunnel is located at the wrist on the side of the palm of your hand. The bones and ligaments of the wrist form a very narrow pathway called the carpal tunnel. This tunnel is a space for tendons and a nerve to travel from your forearm to the fingers of your hand. An important structure that passes through the carpal tunnel is the median nerve, which supplies sensation and strength to parts of the hand.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Compression, trauma, or repetitive stress can injure the carpal tunnel and cause the space to narrow. This in turn can irritate and put pressure on the tendons and the median nerve, resulting in numbness, tingling, and weakness in the fingers and hand. Carpal tunnel syndrome is common for people who work in construction, assembling, and keyboard occupations, play sports such as tennis, or enjoy activities such as knitting. Factors such as pregnancy, diabetes, and other medical conditions can increase your risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Numbness and tingling in the hand usually at the thumb, and 2nd and 3rd fingers
- Weakness of the hand (you may drop items from your hand or have difficulty gripping items)
- Difficulty performing manual tasks
- Numbness in the hand that wakes you up at night
- Pain at the wrist
Why Use A Wrist Brace?
A wrist splint, also called a wrist brace, is a brace that holds the wrist in a neutral position. This can be used for short-term relief of carpal tunnel syndrome. It reduces pressure on the carpal tunnel by preventing the wrist from bending in either direction. There are special wrist braces that can be worn at night. These night splints reduce the numbness and tingling symptoms so that your sleep is not disturbed.
Treatment for wrist pain and carpal tunnel syndrome:
Before treatment and rehabilitation can begin, it is important to get an accurate diagnosis. In addition to a physical examination and a thorough understanding of your symptoms, you may be referred for additional tests such as ultrasound studies or special nerve tests. Chiropractors specialize in diagnosing, treating, and rehabilitating injuries of the spine, muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints, and nerves. If you require a wrist brace, your chiropractor will measure your wrist to make sure you have a comfortable fit. Your rehabilitation may also include:
- Chiropractic and manual therapies to restore proper movement to the wrist joints. Therapeutic Laser therapy may be used to reduce inflammation and pain, and promote healing of the tissues at the wrist.
- Stretching and strengthening exercises. There are specialized wrist and hand exercises that can help relieve the pain, increase strength and flexibility, and improve overall function.
- Massage therapy and Acupuncture are helpful for providing a pain-relieving effect throughout the body, an anti-inflammatory effect, and a general sense of improved well-being.
Your chiropractor will also monitor your condition for wasting of muscle of the thumb, also called atrophy. This usually indicates that the carpal tunnel syndrome is severe and may require a consultation with a surgeon.
Stop the Pain … Before the Pain Stops You!
Dr. Virginia Nsitem is a chiropractor specializing in laser therapy for spine, muscle, joint, and nerve injuries, and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Chiropractic Sports Sciences in Canada. She may be reached at (905) 275-4993, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org