A Peek into the Carpal Tunnel

A Peek into the Carpal Tunnel

Click here for the Carpal Tunnel Podcast

There’s numbness or tingling in your thumb and first two or three fingers.  Maybe it extends up your arm.  It may wake you from sleep.  And it could be that your grip is weak on the steering wheel or phone or when picking up something with your thumb and fingers.  These are the classic symptoms of something being amiss with your carpal tunnel: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

The MYK treatment for carpal tunnel has been effective.

What is the Carpal Tunnel?

Although it may sound a bit like an underground car park, the carpal tunnel is actually a bit of anatomy shared by us all.  ‘Carpal’ comes from the Latin word ‘carpus’ meaning ‘wrist.’  Turn your hand so that the palm is facing up with fingers extended, and notice the long indentation that goes from your forearm to the flat part of your palm; the carpal tunnel lies just under that indentation.

It’s a very narrow passageway from your forearm to the middle of your palm.  The tunnel is covered by a sheath of tough connective tissue called the transverse carpal ligament.  Ligaments connect bones with other bones.  In this case the ligament attaches to small bones on either side of the carpal tunnel.

Through that tiny tunnel (about ⅓ inch) pass the tendons of 9(!) muscles that flex your thumb and fingers as well as one nerve called the median nerve.  The median nerve provides sensation to the palm side of your thumb and three fingers as well as impulses to move your thumb.

What Causes Carpal Tunnel Symptoms?

At base, carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by compression or irritation of the median nerve that originates in your neck.  In general, there are two ways the median nerve can be compromised: change of shape of the carpal tunnel, and injury to the tendons that run through it.

The area of the carpal tunnel may change from a wrist fracture or swelling of the tissue around the tunnel.  Obesity, thyroid problems, and kidney failure may lead to carpal tunnel symptoms.  These symptoms are more common in women than in men partly because the carpal tunnel tends to be a bit smaller in women and thus less forgiving of errors.

More commonly, carpal tunnel syndrome results from tendon injury.  A tendon is a strong band of fibrous connective tissue that attaches a muscle to a bone.  The tendons that go through your carpal tunnel connect muscles in your forearm to your finger bones.

And most commonly, carpal tendon injury is from repetitive stress, repeated forceful movement of the hand and wrist.  It could be frequent mouse clicks, a hair stylist using scissors or blow dryer, or the repetitive work of musicians, carpenters, and others.  These motions cause microscopic tears in the tendons which become inflamed if the body can’t repair them as fast as they happen.  This inflammation then compromises the median nerve causing carpal tunnel symptoms.


Many people choose carpal tunnel surgery, but surgery is recommended as a last resort after weeks or months of trying non-surgical remedies.  It may be recommended earlier if there are severe symptoms preventing normal activity or if the median nerve is damaged.

Surgery cuts that transverse carpal ligament giving the tunnel a bit more room.  The incision area eventually fills up with scar tissue that once again provides a continuous cover for the expanded carpal tunnel.

This is done under local anesthetic, and you can go home the same day.

Before Surgery.

I urge you to take action as soon as you begin to notice the symptoms of carpal tunnel.  These are simple steps that can head-off the need for surgery.

  • First, if possible, stop activities that cause symptoms. This may be difficult if it’s your work, but take as much rest from the activities as possible.
  • Get a wrist splint from your pharmacy, and wear it at night.
  • Put an ice pack on your wrist for 20 minutes 2 or 3 times a day. Use a real ice pack that will stay cold for the 20 minutes you need it to do.
  • Try my MYK treatments that have helped get carpal tunnel symptoms under control.
  • Try over-the-counter pain killers on advice from your doctor.

Whatever you choose to do, the sooner you start treatment, the better are your chances of stopping symptoms, and preventing long-term damage to the median nerve.

In my own practice I have seen improvement in carpal tunnel symptoms simply by treating the nerve roots in the neck where the median nerve originates.  While usually effective pre-surgically, MYK treatments can help pain and range of motion after surgery as well.  I am constantly amazed by the body’s ability to heal itself given half a chance to do.