Duncan Blog

Dr. Eric Duncan Blog

Duncan Chiropractic Group P.C.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) - Can It Be Prevented?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or CTS is a very common problem affecting many workers and is one of the most costly conditions afflicting today's workforce. It is most often caused by repetitive activity using rapid movements of the arms and hands and can lead to work loss and disability when not properly managed. CTS occurs when the median nerve that travels through the carpal tunnel (CT) located on the palm side of the wrist becomes pinched by the swelling of the 9 tendons that also travel through the CT and essentially, pinch the nerve up against the transverse carpal ligament. This results in numbness, tingling and/or pain of the index, middle and forth fingers.

Other symptoms include sleep interruptions where shaking and flicking of the fingers is required to allow for a return to sleep. This is frequently caused by sleeping with the wrist in a cocked position, increasing the pressure inside the already swollen carpal tunnel. This is why a cock-up wrist splint usually helps as it disallows the wrist from bending to the extremes and the nerve is not pressured or pinched as much. Other symptoms include weakness of the grip, making it a challenge to unscrew a jar, open a door, and even sometimes turn the key when starting a car. Driving can also be affected as the hands often fall asleep while holding onto a steering wheel.

Pain can also affect the rest of the arm and sometimes the neck area. The median nerve can also be pinched in more than one place and may include the neck, shoulder, elbow as well as the wrist making it necessary to have all the areas treated for a satisfying result.

People at greatest risk are women > men, workers who handle small tools, computer workers, fast repetitive line workers, and people older than 40 years of age. People with other health conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, Lymes disease, rubella, pregnancy, birth control pill use, diabetes mellitus and menopause are at an increased risk of developing CTS. Certain foods such as caffeine, tobacco, and/or alcohol may also contribute to CTS.

Though treatment is very important -the sooner the better- prevention is most important. In fact, some simple approaches can make a big difference! Some of these include modifying the position of a computer chair, keyboard, monitor, or mouse (work station modifications), alternate between different tasks to reduce the repetition of work, stretch your forearms and fingers before, during and after work, and treat any underlying conditions. When symptoms first occur, these recommendations, as well as wearing a night wrist cock-up splint and seeing your chiropractor, will often reverse the condition without difficulty. If you wait too long and nerve damage occurs, it becomes a more challenging process to manage CTS and at times, even surgery will not be very helpful.

Some of the non-surgical treatment approaches you might expect from your chiropractor include joint manipulation and/or mobilization applied to the neck, wrist, elbow and/or shoulder, the application of physical therapy modalities such as ultrasound, electrical stim, and/or low level laser therapy ("light" therapy), as well as the use of wrist splints.

The University of Maryland Medical Center cites two research articles on chiropractic treatment for CTS. They report good results are usually obtained and that these good results continued for at least 6 months after treatment ended. The same reference also recommends nutrition and supplements in the management of CTS. Some of these include: eliminate food allergens (often milk, cheese, eggs, ice cream, glutens/wheat-grains, soy, corn, and preservatives) and eating foods high in B-vitamins (dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, and sea vegetables), anti-oxidants (fruits - blueberries, cherries, tomatoes; vegetables - squash, bell peppers), avoiding refined foods, using olive oil and adding omega 3 fatty acids to the diet (fish oil). Other vitamins including a multivitamin, B complex, Vit. C, alpha-lipoic acid, MSM, resveratrol, Vit. D, Co-Q10, magnesium can also really help.

We realize that you have a choice in where you choose for your healthcare services. If you, a friend or family member requires care for CTS, chiropractic care is a logical first choice and we would be honored to offer our services to you.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Back School 101... 3 Ways To Prevent Making Your Back Pain Worse

Chiropractic care for patients with low back pain (LBP) not only includes spinal manipulation or adjustments but also patient education in regards to heat/ice, performing daily activities and exercise.

Heat vs. Ice: This topic is controversial, as often, patients will be told by their friends and family to use the opposite of what we may recommend to our patients. In general, when pain is present, there is inflammation... so use ice to reduce swelling and pain. When heat is inappropriately utilized during this inflammatory phase of healing, vasodilation or, an increase in blood supply to the already swollen injured area often results in an increase in pain. The use of heat may be safely applied later in the healing process during the reparative phase of healing, but as long as pain is present, using ice is usually safer and more effective.

Daily Activities: Improper methods of performing sitting, bending, pulling, pushing, and lifting can perpetuate the inflammatory phase, slow down the healing process, and interfere/prevent people from returning to their desired activities of daily living, especially work. Improperly performing these routine activities is similar to picking at scab since you're delaying the healing process and you can even make things worse for yourself.

Exercise: There are many exercises available for patients with low back pain. When deciding on the type of exercise, the position the patient feels best or, the least irritating is usually the direction to emphasize.

More specifically, for those who feel a reduction in pain when bending forward (referred to as "flexion-biased"), flexion exercises are usually indicated. Examples of these include raising a single knee to chest, double knee to chest, posterior pelvic tilts, sitting forward flexion, and hamstring stretches.

When bending backwards results in pain reduction (referred to as "extension-biased"), standing and bending backwards, performing a sagging type of pushup ("prone press-up"), laying backwards on large pillows or on a gym-ball are good exercises. The dosage or duration exercises must be determined individually and it is typically safer to start with 1 or 2 exercises and gradually increase the number as well as repetition and/or hold-times. If sharp/"bad" pain is noted, the patient is warned to discontinue that exercise and report this for further discussion with their chiropractor. It is normal and often a good sign when stretching/"good" pain is obtained at the end range of the exercise.

We recognized the importance of patient education in our approach to managing low back pain cases, and look forward in serving you and your family presently and, in the future.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), What are my options??

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or CTS, has been reported to be the most expensive of all work-related injuries, costing the average CTS patient about $30,000 in medical bills and lost work time over his or her lifetime. CTS is primarily found in adults, is 3x more frequently found in woman, and usually affects the dominant hand first. The pain can be quite severe and disabling. Certain occupations tend to cause CTS more than others, such as manual labor jobs (assembly-line / manufacturing, sewing, finishing, cleaning, meatpacking, food processing and packing occupations). Other jobs like computer work, playing a musical instrument and waitressing can also cause CTS. Certain medical conditions such as diabetes, obesity, pregnancy, the use of birth control pills, inflammatory arthritis and hypothyroidism can predispose patients to CTS. CTS is caused by a pinch to the median nerve that runs down the arm from the neck, through shoulder, elbow and wrist. The pinch can occur in one or more of these locations making it important to obtain a complete evaluation including the neck and upper arm - not just the wrist. There are a total of 9 tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels jammed into the tight confines of the carpal tunnel formed by 8 small carpal bones and the transverse carpal ligament that serves as the "roof" of the tunnel. Symptoms include burning, tingling, aching, and/or numbness primarily into the 2nd to 4th fingers and at times, the thumb. Some sufferers develop weakness in their grip making it hard to open jars, stubborn door knobs, holding onto a newspaper or steering wheel. Waking up multiple times at night is also a common complaint caused by sleeping with the wrist bent, which increases the pressure inside the tunnel, thus pinching the nerve more firmly.

A CTS diagnosis is made by reproducing the symptoms by further compressing the median nerve inside the tunnel. This is accomplished by applying pressure over the tunnel, by bending the patient's wrists 90 degrees backwards (dorsiflexion) and forwards (palmar flexion), compression over the proximal forearm, at the thoracic outlet (under the collar bone) and / or at the neck. Special tests like an EMG/NCV (electromyogram and nerve conduction velocity) can determine the degree of nerve damage and verify the diagnosis. At times, x-ray or MRI are helpful if arthritis or a bone spur is suspect, or to measure the size of the carpal tunnel. Laboratory blood tests to determine secondary causes, described earlier, can also be of benefit.
Treatment consists of 1. Rest; 2. Modifying the activity or workstation suspected of causing CTS; 3. Using a splint- especially at night and when driving; and 4. Managing any underlying disease condition. Managing inflammation is also important, which can be accomplished by the use of ice of. (Ice massage is very effective. This consists of freezing water in paper cups, tearing off the top half of the cup, and rubbing the ice against the skin for approximately 5 minutes. The sequence of sensations includes cold, burning, aching, and numbness ("C-BAN"). Make sure you quit when numbness is reached, as frost bite is a risk if performed for too long.) Anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen, naproxen, or herbal remedies such as ginger, turmeric, boswellia, and/or vitamins like bromelain & papain, vitamin B6, fish oil (omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin D (2000-5000IU); calcium/magnesium are all potentially helpful. Manual manipulations to the joints of the neck, shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand and soft tissue manipulation to the muscles and tendons of the forearm and hand can also be used. Other non-surgical treatments include exercises and physical therapy modalities such as low level laser therapy, electrical stimulation, ultrasound, and others.
We realize you have a choice in where you choose for your healthcare services. If you, a friend or family member requires care for CTS, chiropractic care is a logical first choice and we would be honored to offer our services to you