The National Institute of Health says that Carpal Tunnel Syndrome occurs when the nerves coming from the forearm into the hand become compressed at the wrist, resulting in pain, muscle weakness, and numbness. It is a common ailment that can affect people of most any repetitive-motion-profession, from computer programmers, to hair stylists, to gardeners.
I have great empathy for patients who have suffered weeks and months with Carpal Tunnel. One patient had lost so much muscle strength that drinking a glass of water meant holding his cup with both hands. Another described a sensation of a blood pressure cuff constantly squeezing his wrist. Several patients have had difficulty sleeping at night, either due the excruciating pain they’ve felt or the numbing/tingling sensation that they couldn’t “shake out” of their hands and wrists.
For any of these problems, rest is the easiest solution. Unfortunately, rest is a luxury that most of my clients do not have. Other solutions for these problems can be as simple as changing the keyboard on which a person types, or stretching exercises multiple times per day. When meeting with a new client, I cover any and every of these possibilities. For the sake of simplicity, I will focus on acupuncture points used to treat carpal tunnel.
In Chinese Medicine, carpal tunnel is a blockage of circular energy flowing from the arms to the fingers and back to the arms (think of blood flowing down the arteries and up the veins). The physical manifestations of carpal tunnel are products of this blockage. Thus, the goal of acupuncture would be to clear the blockages, to allow for the free flow of energy through the wrists.
From the anatomical standpoint, many of the points used to treat carpal tunnel are directly on the wrist. HT7, PC7, LU9, SI5, TH4, and LI5 circle the front, back and sides of the wrist.
These points can be thought of like valves on a pressure cooker. The needle is gently inserted into the point and “Fssssssssssssssss” goes the block, allowing the free-flow of energy from arm-to-hand-and-back-again. Patients notice immediate release and relief from pain, tingling, and pressure.
Likewise, there are an abundance of effective distal points, or points that are away from the area of pain. (To get an understanding of how or why ankle points affect the pain is in your wrist, please refer you to my previous blog.)
Acupuncture points LR4, SP5, and KD3-5 are excellent points away from the wrist that can alleviate the pressure, the discomfort, and pain brought on by CTS.
I have also observed that all my CTS clients complain of being “stressed out” in addition to having the wrist pain. The reasons and sources for this tension vary, but it has always been necessary to treat the patient’s stress in addition to the physical symptoms of carpal tunnel. LR3, LI4, and PC6 are great points to calm the spirit, and to help unclench the fists the patient may not even be aware that they have.
It is because of this body, mind, and spirit treatment that the patient is able to heal more completely. These wonderfully effective points allow an acupuncturist great flexibility in treating all facets of carpal tunnel. It allows patients to come away feeling better in their core, not just their wrists. And that makes everyone feel better.