Over the decades, we have come to expect a pain or tingling in the hand and wrist means there is a local injury in the area. Since many surgeries are done each year on the wrist to relieve these symptoms, it seems logical that this is the case. But many patients with “successful” surgeries still have problems over time. Others only receive temporary relief and the problem quickly returns. Other patients can develop wrist and hand symptoms that mimic carpal tunnel syndrome, after a whiplash injury or sprain/strain of the neck. These patients may not have any trauma at all to the wrist and hand area but have severe hand pain. Why does this occur?
One possibility is the carpal tunnel diagnosis was incorrect. Because your body is interconnected with joints and nerves, symptoms often occur at another location from that of the actual problem. Taking this approach is more holistic, vs. the often-fragmented medical view of things. We have doctors of the feet, the eyes, and various other body parts. These types of specialists, while often good at specific problems, can sometimes miss diagnoses that are complex and involve multiple body systems.
More and more research has shown this to be the case in carpal tunnel patients. A study from 2006 looked at the spines of patients with carpal tunnel syndrome. MRI’s, x-rays, and nerve testing were done on patients with carpal tunnel syndrome, and another group with referred pain from the neck and into the wrist and hand. Another group of subjects, with no symptoms at all, served as the control. The x-rays showed that degeneration of the disks in the neck were present in both patient groups. The MRI took things a step further, to see if the tiny holes between the neck bones showed narrowing and a pincer effect on the nerves.
This study showed that in carpal tunnel syndrome there is often degenerative changes in the neck and supported the “double-crush” nerve hypothesis. Seeing a doctor of chiropractic to make sure that your wrist and neck is properly examined is key to proper diagnosis. Without proper assessments, treatments are often unsuccessful, especially surgery. Before embarking on the more invasive option of surgery, consider conservative chiropractic care. If the problem in your wrist is more a problem in your neck, specific wrist treatments will be ineffective.