Symptoms of numbness in the thumb and first two fingers of the hand may result from a disorder of the median nerve. It is common to have pain which extends up the forearm, and this seems to be worse upon awakening. Patients also complain of coldness in the fingers, and the sensation that the hand is "asleep". This symptom is known to physicians as "pins and needles paresthesias", or sometimes as "dysesthesia", which means an "unpleasant" sensation.
One reason for this disorder is that sometimes the median nerve is entrapped in a channel near the wrist known as the "carpal tunnel". However, it is also possible to have similar symptoms when the disorder is higher up in the arm, or originates from problems in the neck. Shoulder pain and neck pain are symptoms which suggest that the issue may not be carpal tunnel syndrome, but rather a structural or qi problem in another area. Repetitive activities at work or at home, especially with the wrist flexed, can lead to this problem, as can the use of vibrating power tools. Increased fluid retention, such as during pregnancy or with certain drugs, can also result in carpal tunnel syndrome.
Acupuncture treatment of these symptoms address the problem according to the channels which are involved. Usually, treatment of yang ming, tai yin, and jueh yin channels are appropriate, depending on the manifestation of the syndrome. Obviously, patients who are pregnant will improve after delivery, and when pharmaceutical drugs are the reason for the disorder, changing or discontinuing drugs will contribute to an improvement. It is surprising, however, how difficult it is to persuade physicians from discontinuing a drug, even when it is causing significant side-effects.
For some patients, surgery may be considered or even necessary. However, the risk of surgery and anesthesia is so much greater than acupuncture and Chinese medicinals that consideration of Oriental techniques is more often appropriate. The number of patients which have consulted me who have not improved or who have worsened after surgery has convinced me that acupuncture should be applied in the earliest stages of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Chinese herbal medicine may also be a useful adjunct to treat the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, so this should be something that you discuss with your physician.
Dr. L.B. Grotte, M.D., was the first physician in Ohio to be board certified in both acupuncture and Chinese herbology. He has studied Oriental medicine since 1972 and has practiced Oriental medicine in Cleveland for more than 27 years. Our small practice specializes in creating individualized treatment plans combining Western and Oriental methods. Call us at 440-461-7488 or visit our website for more information, or to make an appointment.