Can Carpal Tunnel Cause Shoulder Pain? | Ask the Expert
The simple and short answer is yes, carpal tunnel syndrome can cause shoulder pain. To understand the connection between your wrist and shoulder, you need to understand a few facts about your physiology.
Can Carpal Tunnel Cause Shoulder Pain? The Connection Between your Wrist and Shoulder
There is a nerve in your body that extends from your finger-tips through your wrist up your arm into your shoulder and neck. It is called the Median Nerve. Often your nerve trouble is a result of a pinched nerve in the carpal tunnel in your wrist. And yes, the pain from this pinch can reach up into your shoulder and the nerve in your neck.
Your carpal tunnel is a passageway or narrow tunnel-like structure that is composed of bones and ligaments on the inside of your wrist, through which your median nerve passes. Although a pinched nerve can happen anywhere in your body, one of the most common areas for a pinched nerve is in the carpal tunnel.
Can Carpal Tunnel Cause Shoulder Pain? Symptoms
There are some good indicators of carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Pain that is located anywhere from your index and middle fingers to your elbow, to your shoulders to your neck.
- Itching, burning tingling or numbness that is located anywhere from your index and middle fingers to your elbow, to your shoulders to your neck.
- Frequent dropping of items.
- Weakness in your grip.
- Cramping in your hands.
Can Carpal Tunnel Cause Shoulder Pain? Causes
The most common cause of your condition can originate from many different activities, but they are all related to overuse of the wrist joint.
- The overuse can be a result of playing an instrument, using a computer, use fine motor movements such as in dentistry, and painting with a brush or roller. If the activity takes place when your hands are lower than your wrists the likelihood of a pinched nerve increases. Almost any activity that you do with your hands on a daily basis can be the source of the problem.
- A second source of your pain can be a condition such as hypothyroidism, overweight, arthritis, and diabetes.
- A third source that can cause this condition is pregnancy. Although it is common for symptoms to diminish after several months after delivery.
Can Carpal Tunnel Cause Shoulder Pain? Home Remedies
- Lifestyle Changes: You can stop doing the activity that is causing you pain. Or you can learn how to do these activities differently to reduce the strain on your wrist.
- Frequent Breaks: take breaks when using the wrist that is causing you pain.
- Relieve some of the strain by stretching your muscles. You can stretch many parts of your upper body to reduce wrist, shoulder and neck pain.
- Take over the counter pain and anti-inflammatory medication.
- Use a cold pack to reduce the swelling in the area.
- Wear a brace to keep your wrist straight during the day.
- Wear a brace at night.
Can Carpal Tunnel Cause Shoulder Pain? Diagnosis
The exact cause of pain can be challenging to diagnose. However, an accurate diagnosis is critical for your recovery. Your expert physician at a pain treatment clinic will examine your wrist, neck and back for any indication of the source of your pain. He or she may also ask you to move in certain ways to determine if the pain increases. Several imagining techniques can also be informative in identifying the source of your pain. These include X-ray, ultrasound and MRI. Once the cause of your pain has been determined you pain doctor will suggest a combination of therapies to alleviate your condition.
Can Carpal Tunnel Cause Shoulder Pain? Medical Solutions
- Prescription Medications: Your physician will prescribe stronger pain and anti-inflammatory medications than are available over the counter. These medications will allow you to continue with stretches and muscle building exercises that will alleviate your pain.
- Physical Therapy: Your physical therapist will consult with your pain doctor to determine the best course of care. He or she will help you learn some stretching exercises that can be continued at home to accelerate your recovery. The therapy may extend to your neck and shoulders too. Your physical therapist will also have some suggestions for changing the way in which you complete your daily activities. You may need to wear brace or splint or to change your approach to everyday activities to alleviate the chronic strain in the area.
- Acupuncture: Acupuncture is now seen as a beneficial method for pain relief. Once the pain subsides, you can more comfortably complete your stretching exercises.
- Open Carpal Tunnel Surgery: Your surgeon will make a small incision in the palm of your hand to cut the transverse ligament. This releases the pressure on the median nerve thereby reducing or eliminating your pain. When the procedure is completed, the incision will be stitched. You can expect at least a 90% success rate with this operation.
Recovery Expectations for Surgery
Your recovery period will involve these average timelines, if you follow through with your physical therapy exercises. You will be able to drive within a few days of surgery. You will be able to write within a week. You will need 4 to 6 weeks before writing will feel less cumbersome. Within 6 to 10 weeks you will regain your strength. With severe cases you will need a year of recovery before your full strength will return.
- The Median nerve stretches from your fingers and all the way up your arm to your shoulders and neck. Pain can radiate from anywhere along your nerve, if there is a pinch along the way.
- The carpal tunnel area is on the inside of your wrist. The medial nerve moves through a tunnel of bones and ligaments. Any constriction in this area can cause a pinched nerve that results in your pain.
- The expert pain doctor in NY or the pain doctor in NY at the pain treatment clinic will diagnose the cause of your pain and suggest non-intrusive medical treatments to counter your pain.
- Only when all other methods have not brought relief, will surgery be considered.