Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Bad Posture
The American College of Rheumatology estimates that 4 – 10 million Americans are affected by Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes, “symptoms usually start gradually, with numbness, tingling, weakness, and sometimes pain in the hand and wrist. People might have difficulty with tasks such as driving or reading a book. Decreased hand strength may make it difficult to grasp small objects or perform other manual tasks”. CTS occurs when the nerve that runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand is compressed at the wrist. Although the diagnosis is usually fairly straightforward, misdiagnosis is not uncommon.
Is it really Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
One condition that is commonly mistaken for CTS is Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS). TOS can present as burning, tingling, and numbness along the arm, hand and finger and even weakness in the hand. Sound familiar? The cause of TOS and CTS are very different. Clients who have come into my office having been diagnosed with CTS often, during examination, demonstrate that their symptoms were more in line with TOS.
TOS is of importance because of its association with bad posture. Although TOS isn’t always found with bad posture, I have seen bad posture inducing TOS which can mimic CTS.
How do I tell the difference?
A correct diagnosis requires a proper examination – so I would always recommend a proper professional examination. There are signs and symptoms that may help point you in the direction that bad posture is involved.
Look in the mirror or have someone look at your posture and observe:
- Your shoulders rolled forward
- Do you have Forward Head Translation
- Trouble raising one or both of your arms due to pain
- Do you have tight chest muscles and or restriction in your shoulders
Although not definitive, if you have any combination of the above signs and symptoms you may be experiencing TOS induced by bad posture.
One Caveat – Double Crush Syndrome
Double Crush Syndrome is when the nerve route from the neck to the hand are compressed in multiple locations. It is possible for you to have both CTS and TOS. In addition there may also be compression at the nerve root level which exits between the vertebrae of your neck. This is a much more complex situation. I would strongly recommend seeking a professional who has experience in this field. Let them help you accurately assess and evaluate your condition.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or Bad Posture?
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a commonly misdiagnosed condition. It’s very important to get a third or fourth opinion from various practitioners from different fields of study.
I would recommend the following practitioners to help evaluate:
- Chiropractor specializing in posture
- Doctor of Physical Therapy
- Doctor of Acupuncture
- Orthopedic Surgeon – Hand Specialist
The above practitioners each view the body in slightly different ways and therefore provide a more holistic perspective. I believe this will help you get the best diagnosis possible. The correct assessment can mean a rapid recovery to your daily life. The alternative is a wrong assessment which can lead to unnecessary surgery. I generally recommend that people consider less invasive approaches first then go more aggressively.
Bad posture has caused your CTS? By correcting your posture you will see changes. Depending on the severity and length of time they have been present, your symptoms may go away fairly quickly.