The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are caused by compression of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel at the wrist. It includes numbness, tingling, and burning sensations, and a dull ache in the hand and fingers . These symptoms are usually restricted to the thumb, index, middle and ring fingers. They usually occur at night, often waking the patient from sleep, but can be relieved within a few minutes by shaking the hand . Pain sometimes radiates up the forearm as far as the elbow. Other, less common, symptoms include weakness or clumsiness of the hand.
Repetitive hand movements, pregnancy and arthritis may aggravate and inflame the tendons and cause carpal tunnel syndrome.
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How acupuncture can help
In general, acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system and cause the release of neurochemical messenger molecules. The resulting biochemical changes influence the body’s homeostatic mechanisms, thus promoting physical and emotional well-being.
Research has shown that acupuncture treatment may specifically help in the management of carpal tunnel syndrome by:
- acting on areas of the brain known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress, as well as promoting relaxation and deactivating the ‘analytical’ brain.
- increasing the release of adenosine, which has antinociceptive properties.
- regulating the limbic network of the brain, including the hypothalamus and amygdala.
- inducing beneficial cortical plasticity (i.e. conditioning the brain to stop processing sensory nerve input from the affected fingers maladaptively)
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