Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a condition associated with pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the wrist and parts of the hand, which is caused by compression of the median nerve as it passes through the wrist. Due to this common condition having such a dramatic effect on one’s ability to carry out work and activities, one may wonder if CTS can be prevented. The short answer is… maybe.
Unfortunately, CTS doesn’t just have one primary cause. Rather, patients often have multiple health conditions and lifestyle factors that may each increase the risk for the complaint. Because many of these individual risk factors are unavoidable, it’s not possible to eliminate one’s risk for the CTS. However, that’s not to say there aren’t steps that could lower one’s risk for the condition:
- Eat a high-quality diet: Because inflammation can reduce the space in the carpal tunnel, eating an anti-inflammatory diet—such as the Mediterranean diet—that is rich with fruit and vegetables and avoids high fat, high carb processed foods may help to reduce CTS risk.
- Get exercise: In addition to keeping the joints healthy and muscles strong, exercise can reduce stress and provides anti-inflammatory effects.
- Don’t smoke: In addition to hindering the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the cells, smoking may slow healing and even increase the risk of injury to the soft tissues in the body, including those in and near the wrist.
- Manage chronic disease: Conditions that affect hormone levels like diabetes and hypothyroidism have been linked to CTS, so taking steps to manage these conditions should lower the risk for CTS.
- Activity modifications: Frequent, repetitive movements—especially those which involve awkward wrist movements/posture—can cause inflammation in the wrist. Taking frequent breaks, rotating activities, and using more wrist-friendly tools can help.
- Address other musculoskeletal disorders: Patients with CTS frequently have musculoskeletal issues elsewhere along the course of the median nerve (the neck, shoulder, elbow, and forearm) that can increase the risk for median nerve restriction in the wrist.
While these actions may help to lower the risk for CTS, sometimes the condition is unavoidable. However, the current research suggests that CTS is much easier to manage and a patient is more likely to have a satisfactory result the sooner they seek care. So don’t wait until your symptoms worsen before contacting your doctor of chiropractic!