Recently I saw a photo of one of my acquaintance’s wrists that had just been through surgery because of carpal tunnel syndrome. I remembered that in the past I have helped my patients avoid surgery with acupuncture treatment. I would now like to share with you how traditional Chinese medicine can help patients with carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Patients would experience pins and needles, numbness and pain on the hand and wrist area. In most cases it is due to compression of the nerve that runs past the wrist. The cause could be arthritis, fluid retention in the wrist, congenital factors, and repetitive strain injury or in some cases could be due to an unknown reason. Usually patients would be recommend to get plenty of rest, wear a splint, and take diuretic medication or corticosteroid injection. Chinese Medicine can offer a drug free and natural healing method for this issue.
How does Acupuncture help Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Using acupuncture to needle directly on the wrist might have a chance to aggravate and acerbate the situation. So how do Acupuncturists approach this problem? We can tackle this issue based on the “balance” principle in our body. In Chinese medicine classic, The Inner Cannon of Yellow Emperor, states “needle the left to treat the right” “needle the bottom to treat the top”.
What is the meaning of “needle the left to treat the right”?
In this context, if a patient is suffering from carpal tunnel on the right wrist, we would needle the wrist of the left hand to help relieve the pain or we can needle the left ankle to treat the right wrist. This method of acupuncture is known as the “Balance Method”. In traditional Chinese medicine theory, the hand and leg meridian are paired and balanced with each other in a particular order. The paired meridian have an energetic influence on each other. The guideline from the classic are needle the toe to treat the finger; needle the ankle to treat the wrist; needle the knee to treat the elbow and needle the shoulder to treat the hip. If we further elaborate on this idea, we can treat headache or other facial problems with points on the hands and feet. Therefore, there are many other acupuncture points to help relieve pain for a particular area and give acupuncturists more freedom and creativity to tackle an issue.
Acupuncture is not mystic.
A more modern explanation is we needle the “healthy side” with acupuncture. Using the previous example of the right wrist suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. We are stimulating a nerve signal from the left wrist to travel to the opposite side of the brain (right brain controls the left side of the body). Then the signal is transferred to the opposite brain hemisphere (right brain controls the left side of the body). This leads to the brain sending nerve impulses and chemical signals to the injured area, as a result of that blood flow to the wrist will increase and trigger a chemical change in the local area. The self-healing response occurs and patients will feel the pain and numbness reduce. Therefore, acupuncture can help reduce fluid retention, reduce inflammation and nerve pain for carpal tunnel symptoms.
If you or your friend experiences this issue you could consider acupuncture as a possible treatment method. For most of my patients, the initial phase will be a more frequent and intense treatment plan which involves weekly treatment for 5 weeks. Eventually we would move into a maintenance phase which could be once a month. Results vary for each individual, some patients only require a treatment on a “need to” basis after the intensive treatment period.