Opinion

Thiel: Laser therapy found effective in treating carpal tunnel

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a debilitating state that can severely compromise one’s quality of life.

Women have an increased likelihood of suffering from CTS because  their carpal tunnel is smaller than that of their male counterparts.

It affects the dominant hand seven times more than non-dominant hand.

It is common in people who have activities or occupations that require repetitive strain, which is why it is considered a repetitive strain injury.

The Mayo Clinic found that the average lifetime cost of carpal tunnel syndrome, including medical bills and lost time from work, is estimated to be in excess of $30,000 for each injured worker.

It is characterized by a progressively painful hand and arm caused by a pinched nerve in your wrist known as the median nerve.

The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway that is bound by bones and ligaments. It is located on the palm side of your wrist.

Passing through this tunnel is a series of nerves, blood vessels and nine tendons that assist in bending your fingers.

Compression of the nerve produces the numbness, pain and eventually the weakness that is characterized by carpal tunnel syndrome.

CTS is the most common nerve compression disorder of the upper extremity.

It effects one per cent of the general population and five per cent of the working population that requires repetitive use of their hands.

Early diagnosis is important in reducing the long-term damage to the nerve involved.

There are simple tests that can be done by your health practitioner to identify this state early on and initiate corrective care measures as soon as possible.

Some practitioners will recommend splinting of the wrist during sleep and/or activities, but this is no longer advisable as that step can cause weakness and atrophy of the muscles in the long run.

Steroid injections have been shown to provide temporary relief lasting two to four months with only 22 per cent of patients remaining symptom-free 18 months after injection.

It is estimated that 45 per cent of all CTS cases undergo surgery in an attempt to reduce the nerve compression. However, one-third of patients continue to experience pain and functional impairment postoperatively, with less than 40 per cent of surgical patients achieving a completely normal functional status.

At my clinic, I had great success in treating CTS patients with application of low intensity laser therapy.

The treatment is painless, effective and has no side effects.

It is a therapy that is curative and not just a form of pain management. The application of this laser has shown a relatively immediate reduction in pain and edema, or swelling.

What has made the laser so effective in treating this malady is that the application of this therapy aids in nerve regeneration and repair.

No other therapy does that.

A randomized double-blind study carried out at General Motors in Detroit, Mich., used this therapy and found that motor improvement of the hand increased considerably, returning strength to the hand.

Some 72 per cent of the workers treated with laser returned to work at full capacity compared to 41 per cent of the workers in the control group.

A recent study published in Photomedicine and Laser Surgery demonstrated that the application of light therapy in the treatment of CTS found an average of 84 per cent success rate in the 171 cases studied.

If you or someone you know is suffering from CTS, note that there are safe and effective forms of treatment available to you.

You do not have to suffer.

Markus Thiel is a doctor of chiropractic practicing in Kelowna.

askdrthiel@shaw.ca

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