Ayurveda for carpal tunnel syndrome

Compression of the median nerve is clinically termed as ‘Carpal tunnel syndrome’. The median nerve travels down the arm into the hand through a narrow path. At the wrist, this narrow path is compressed by various physical and physiological reasons causing discomfort. The level of discomfort varies from a simple dull ache to complete numbness of the hand. The symptoms include tingling sensations, numbness, weakness, pain in the hand as a whole or restricted to some fingers, forearm and elbow.

Carpal tunnel syndrome can be the result of overuse, strain, forceful or stressed motions of hands and wrists. Recent studies have indicated that continuous typing; excessive usage of computers, etc. are the primary causes for carpal tunnel syndrome, though the clinical evidences are still not satisfactory.

Clinically IT professionals, architects and computer users are reported to have this condition in high numbers compared to common people.

Incidence of carpal tunnel syndrome in women is as much as three times higher than in men. Age also plays a role as the incidence is high between the ages of 45 and 52.

Other health conditions like diabetes, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disorders, long time use of contraceptives, menopause and PMS also contribute to this condition. Fluid retention in women also contributes to this disease. Studies have shown that smokers and alcoholics may experience acute symptoms and slower recovery than non smokers and non alcoholics.

Carpal tunnel syndrome starts with mild pain or discomfort in the wrist region and slowly spreads to the  hand and forearm. Common symptoms of this condition includes
a. Numbness of fingers and hand specifically over thumb, index and middle fingers.
b. This numb or pain increases during driving, holding any object or simply when wake up in the morning
c. Usually associated with radiating from wrist towards upper arm and shoulders
d. More confined to front side of the forearm
e. Persistent sense of weakness in the hands
f. Numbness of hand or fingers

The diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome is suspected based on the symptoms and the distribution of the hand numbness. Examination of the neck, shoulder, elbow, pulses, and reflexes is performed to exclude other conditions that can mimic carpal tunnel syndrome. The wrist is examined for swelling, warmth, tenderness, deformity, and discoloration.

Ayurveda’s views of carpal tunnel syndrome
Ayurveda explains that the three bio energies are responsible for all physical and psychological wellbeing. Imbalance or vitiation of these three together or any one leads to the formation of the disease/ disorder. Increase or vitiation of Vata or air element results in compression and pain. Ayurveda’s management of carpal tunnel syndrome involves the management of vitiated vata dosha (air element). The primary aim is to ease  inflammation and pain by improving blood circulation and relaxing the muscles.

Ayurveda itself recommends a holistic approach with medicines and therapies, a Vatahara lifestyle and diet, yoga and exercises.

Ayurveda therapies like Pizchil, Navara Kizhi, Ela Kizhi, Mamsa Navara Kizhi, etc. are very effective in reducing the pain and numbness. A 7-21 day therapy program comprises of general massage with herbal steam to Mamsa Navara Kizhi (meat based external application) to bring back normalcy.

Mamsa Navara Kizhi is one of the specialized treatments used specifically to treat this condition. Warm oil application is followed by external application of warm or hot paste made from red meat, green gram, rice and herbal powders. This process improves blood circulation, relaxes the muscular system and heals the affected nervous system swiftly.

Ayurveda medicines like cervilon, Zeotone, Yoga raja Guggulu, Kaishora Guggulu, Lakshadi Guggulu and Tryodashanga Guggulu are very effective in managing pain and inflammation.

Ayurveda recommends Abhyanga – Oil massage followed by herbal steam bath once a week for the prevention and management of this condition.

Prevention is better than cure
a. Relax and reduce the force: Simple daily practice that keeps the hands and wrists soft should be practiced. For example, prolonged hand writing, using long pen with soft grip.
b. Break: Taking breaks during continuous hand usage helps the muscles to relax and thereby helps prevention
c. Improving the posture: Maintain correct posture during walking, sitting, driving, sleeping
d. Maintain warmth: Cold environment, working in or exposure to cold weather can stiffen the muscles and lead to painful conditions. Keeping the palms and hand warm helps the muscles relax.

Source: Dr K Gowthaman, Medical Director, rVita (rVita Ayurveda Centers)

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