Carpal Tunnel and Neck Pain

Upon hearing the words carpal tunnel syndrome, most people assume that the affected area only involves the hands, the wrist and the fingers. What they don't know other areas can be affected as well including the arms, shoulders and the neck. You may ask how these areas can also be affected by the carpal tunnel syndrome, when the carpal tunnel is an anatomical area found in the wrist region. However, before we dredge deeper into the connection between carpal tunnel and neck pain, let us first understand these two medical conditions individually.

An Overview of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is typically associated with workers who spend so much time typing on the computer such as secretaries, transcriptionists and typists. This condition is known to be caused by an irritated median nerve, which runs along the carpal tunnel. The carpal tunnel is the space found between the band of fibrous tissue surrounding the wrist and the joint bone. Needless to say, when the carpal tunnel is inflamed or changes in position due to various diseases and conditions such as pregnancy, obesity, multiple myeloma, leukemia, hypothyroidism, acromegaly and excessive use of growth hormones, the median nerve ends up being compressed.

The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include numbness and slight tingling sensation on the palms and on the fingers, specifically the thumb, the index fingers and the first half of the ring finger. Loss of grip strength, atrophied muscles, weakening muscles on the area near the carpal tunnel and neck pain also accompany the primary symptoms. As of the present, there is still no definitive test that will help diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome in one go.

Initially, the patient's complaint is taken into account. The patient will most likely undergo a physical examination of the wrist, hands and in more progressive cases, the arms and the shoulders to rule out other possible conditions that may be responsible for the symptoms. Ultimately, nerve conduction tests such as the electromyelogram (EMG) are used to diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome. The test measures the speed of the muscles' electrical impulses as they travel down a specific nerve. In patients suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, the electrical impulses are remarkably slowed along the carpal tunnel. With this result and the patient's initial complaint, the doctor will then diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome.

The treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome is divided into two classes, mainly those that are surgical treatments and those are non-surgical treatments. The surgical treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome is called the carpal tunnel release. Meanwhile, the non-surgical treatments for carpal tunnel range from the use of various drugs, wrist splints, cool packs, exercise and other alternative treatment methods including chiropractor and acupuncture. Typically, patients who undergo treatment for carpal tunnel fully recover as there is very small number of those who experienced a relapse.

Neck Pain

Most of us have probably experienced neck pain at least once in our entire lifetime. You've been hooked on the computer for too long and you're bound to get neck pain. You stare at the ceiling or hang your head low for an inordinate amount of time and neck pain is just around the corner. There are numerous reasons as to why neck pain occurs, even though the pain is mostly centered on the neck. The most common and simpler causes of neck pain involves minor injuries and falls, stress, prolonged posture that puts a strain on the neck area, referred pain, overuse, herniated disc, whiplash and pinched nerve. There are also more serious causes of neck pain, which includes infections, spinal stenosis and carotid artery dissection.

Neck pain is primarily treated through exercise and manipulation of the joints alongside application of warm and cold compresses. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are also used to alleviate the pain as well as several muscle relaxants to help stabilize the muscles surrounding the neck area. When none of these interventions work and the cause of the neck pain is that of a mechanical one, surgery is most commonly the answer. Fifty percent of the neck pain cases become better at the course of a one year treatment. However, ten percent of those who experienced neck pain also become a chronic case.

The Connection between Carpal Tunnel and Neck Pain

As discussed on the beginning of the article, the main cause of the carpal tunnel syndrome is a pinched median nerve. You may be surprised to know that the median nerve actually goes a long way before it runs through the carpal tunnel in the wrist area. The median nerve goes out of the spinal cord through the lower area of the neck. The nerve then slithers through the neck muscles found under the collar bone towards the frontal region of your shoulder bone. By then, the median nerve goes through the arm, the elbow and the wrist where it makes its way through the Carpal Tunnel and finally, into the hands.

Somewhere along those lines, the compressed median nerve in the carpal tunnel sends the same signal as it travels up carrying new impulses from the extremity, which may produce a simultaneous neck pain aside from the main symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.