Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – What Is It?

What Is It?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a common disorder of the wrist and hand. CTS most recognizable features are pain and numbness on the palm side of the wrist and hand. Sufferers may also say their fingers feel swollen. When the condition is more severe, weakness can result causing considerable troubles with simple everyday activities such as brushing your teeth, gripping a glass or cup or even dressing in the morning. Occasionally the pain may travel up the arm. Symptoms are commonly worse in the morning.

What Is Going On?

These symptoms are a result of a nerve(median) becoming compressed as it passes through an opening in the wrist. This compression is most commonly caused by the other structures that are also in this small tunnel. These are the bones of the wrist and the tendons(muscles) that move the fingers and thumb. When these structures become damaged or inflamed, they can put pressure or irritate the median nerve. This nerve starts in the neck and travels down the arm into the hand. Because of this, poor posture or injuries to either the neck or shoulder and upper arm can be linked to this disorder. Other conditions can cause someone to be more prone to developing CTS including pregnancy, arthritis, an old fracture at the wrist, or overuse in repetitive sports/jobs.


What Can Be Done?

Like almost all conditions and disorders the first thing a person can do is be preventive. This starts with taking precautionary measures, especially if you are in a higher risk group as previously discussed. Prevention starts with stretching and being aware of improper posture and form when performing repetitive tasks in either work or play. You want to avoid prolonged positions where your wrist is bent forwards or backward. If this is impossible, take frequent breaks to reduce the stress on your wrist. If you use tools for work or racquets for sport, use large handles to loosen your grip and minimize the amount of force your muscles need to generate.

If you are already afflicted with this disorder, some of these same tactics can be useful but you are best served to be assessed by a healthcare practitioner to determine the severity as certain stretches and exercises can actually make the condition worse. When you are already experiencing pain, priority is to try and reduce the irritating action to allow healing and an ability to fix the problem. If unable to do this, treatment can take longer than normal. Treatment of the disorder is aimed at decreasing pain and inflammation in the carpal tunnel. This can be done by icing, taking medications or using treatments like electrotherapies, acupuncture, massage therapy to reduce symptoms and heal faster. If symptoms are severe, a splint can be wornat night to keep your wrist neutral and reduce stress. If someone has symptoms that are advanced and do not respond to treatment attempts, the last resort is a surgical procedure called a carpal tunnel release where the surgeon will cut the ligament covering the tunnel to release the pressure. As with all surgeries, there are inherent risks of continual symptoms and should only be done as a last resort as it is irreversible!

Potential Treatments

  • Stretching and Exercises
  • Massage Therapy
  • Electrotherapy and Ice/Heat
  • Ultrasound
  • Acupuncture
  • Wrist Splint/Brace
  • Medications (Advil/Ibuprofen)
  • Chiropractic to improve posture
  • Last Resort – Surgical Release

What Can I Do At Work?

One of the major causes of developing carpal tunnel syndrome is having poor posture at your workstation. Having an ergonomic assessment done can be helpful but here are a few simple tips to help alleviate stress on your body:

  • Follow the 90-90 rule! Position your elbows, hips, knees, and ankles in a 90degree position for optimal alignment.
  • Position the top of your computer screen at eye level to prevent eye and neck strain
  • Set the keyboard at a closer distance from you to avoid unnecessary trouble in reaching the keyboard.
  • Place the keyboard in such a manner so that your arms should be parallel to your thighs.
  • Keep your wrists straight, relaxed and in a neutral position in line with your forearm. When typing, the best practice is to keep your wrists floating rather than resting them on a wrist pad. But if you choose to use a wrist pad, rest the heels of your palms and not your palms. If possible, use the wrist pad between typing movements and not during typing.
  • Gently press the keys and do not hold them down for extended periods.
  • Perform back, shoulder, and wrist stretches and shoulder shrugs at least every hour to prevent body strain and stress

Fit in the Core

Starting May 26th, there is going to be FREE open-air fitness every Sunday throughout the summer in downtown Burlington. It takes place in the Civic Square right next to City Hall. Come and join next Sunday!!

We were at the inaugural session of Fit in the Core on Sunday, May 26th and what a start to the event. The weather was perfect and Peter from Peter-Built Fitness Studio lead over 50 people of all ages in a group exercise class. Here are some pictures from the day.


Chiropractic Assessment Luncheon May 2013

We were at MMM group in Thornhill, ON doing chiropractic assessments for the workers over their lunch breaks.

The staff were able to come and talk with us and have a simple assessment for any problems they were having. We answered questions about their general health and gave them advice to help them combat the physical demands of office posture. If you think your company would benefit from having us come in and talking or doing assessments, please contact our office as we would be more than happy too.


Lace Up For Love Run May 2013

While is it was not optimal weather for a Mother's Day run, spirits were still warm at this event for a great cause supporting WELLSPRING Birmingham Gilgan House’s New Cancer Exercise Facility; Our team consisted of Dr. Maja Edgar and RMT Amanda Holmes supporting the runners with massages, stretches and answering questions about their health.


Preventing Gardening Injuries

Time to get outside and work on our yards/gardens. Here are a few tips to help keep the injury imp from striking.

As the weather continues to tease us that warmer days are ahead, people will be dusting off their trowels and reaching for their gardening gloves. Just with any physical activity, you need to prepare and take a few simple precautions to help prevent causing pain or worse, injuries. Before you start doing anything take a few minutes and warm up. Take a brisk walk around your garden/yard to survey what you will be working on. This will raise your body temperature and get your blood pumping into your muscles. Roll your shoulders, rotate your torso slowly, do a few squats with your back straight to prepare you for lifting.

Once you begin, always break down the tasks at hand into smaller more manageable sections. Take frequent breaks as you work and remember, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon weren’t built in a day. When working remember to keep good posture, bending at your knees instead of your waist, avoid twisting or overreaching. Instead, shuffle/move your feet or get closer. If you are using tools, try to use ergonomic, well-designed tools. They should lightweight and long handle. Larger hand grips will also help to reduce the strain on your forearm muscles. If possible, try and change hand soften but only if this doesn’t put you at more risk of injuring yourself (cuts). Use kneeling pads while planting or hand digging.

Halfway through your gardening as well as at the end when you are done, make sure to stretch your muscles. This will help to reduce your soreness the next day. For your legs stretch your hamstrings by placing your heel on a low step with your leg straight. Slowly lean forward at your hips while keeping your back straight.


For your thighs, stand close to a wall for balance. Bring your heel to your buttock and hold. Switch sides. For your lower legs, stand with your hands’ on the wall with your one foot behind the other. Keep your leg straight and make sure your heel is on the ground. In addition, a step closer and bend your knee while still keeping your heel on the ground.


For your forearms and wrists, extend your elbow with your palm facing down and slowly drop your wrist to the floor using your other hand to help stretch. Repeat this stretch by pulling your wrist back towards you.

back muscles

To stretch your back muscles lay flat on your back and bring your knee to your chest and hold. You can do this one leg at a time or bring both at once.

Enjoy the warmer weather and your time in the garden. Winter will be here before you know it.

If you have any questions regarding the material in this newsletter, give us a call or email us at the clinic. In addition, if you would like to have an educational talk at your workplace on ergonomics and posture, proper lifting techniques or injury prevention, let us know. We would be excited to come and share our knowledge on staying healthy.


What is The Cause of Headaches and What Can You Do about Them?

The Origin of Headaches

Whether you feel a pounding in the temples, a dull throb at the back of your head or a shooting pain with noise and bright light; a headache can be a disabling and painful occurrence, especially if it strikes often.

However, many people don't realize that a large proportion of headaches are generated by the neck, upper back and associated muscles (such as the ones in the base of our skull and in our jaw). When we are physically or emotionally stressed (for example, when we maintain poor postures for long periods in front of the computer), the joints and muscles in our upper body tighten and develop increased tension. This, in turn, leads to poor or restricted movement patterns in the upper back and neck region, irritating the nerves – which in turn send pain signals to our brains to let us know there’s a problem.

The most common problem areas are the C2/3 facet joints and sub-occipital muscles, which have been shown to refer pain to the base of the skull and around the forehead into the eyes and temples (see Figure 1).

Fig. 1

Figure 1. This diagram is showing a group of muscles at the base of the skull called the suboccipital triangle. When this group of muscles becomes tight due to physical stressors such as poor posture and prolonged sitting at the computer, it causes pressure on the nerve that passes through this triangle and the result is pain in the head (depicted in this diagram with red dots).

“However, many people don't realize that a large proportion of headaches are generated by the neck, upper back and associated muscles (such as the ones in the base of our skull and in our jaw).”

The ideal posture is for your head to be stacked vertically on your neck, but people who are stressed or have poor posture from working on the computer for prolonged periods of time tend to tilt their heads forward. Studies on posture have shown that every degree of forward tilt increases the load placed through your upper neck by roughly 10% - and it’s not uncommon for people who are suffering from headaches to have up to 10 degrees of forward head tilt (see Figure 2).

posture Figure 2. Example of shoulder and neck forward posture on the left and proper posture on the right.

neck painProlonged sitting at the computer can cause muscle fatigue, tightness and lead to headaches.

Other physical and emotional stressors that can lead to headaches:

  • skipping meals
  • becoming dehydrated
  • being under a lot of emotional stress at work or at home
  • having a minor head injury (for example, due to a fall or car accident)
  • using the computer or watching TV for a long time
  • vision problems
  • menstruation
  • experiencing changes in hormone levels
  • taking a long trip in a car or bus
  • listening to really loud music
  • smoking
  • smelling strong odors such as perfume, smoke, fumes, or a new car or carpet
  • drinking or eating too much caffeine (in soda, coffee, tea, and chocolate)
  • consuming certain foods (such as alcohol, cheese, nuts, pizza, chocolate, ice cream, fatty or fried food, lunchmeats, hot dogs, yogurt, aspartame, or anything with the food additive MSG)
  • certain medications (headaches are a potential side effect of some)
  • too little sleep or sudden changes in sleep patterns

Headaches— What You Can Do About Them

To head off headaches from fatigue, make sure you get enough rest.

  • Keep eating — the low blood sugar that results from skipping meals can trigger a headache.
  • Go slow if you're giving up coffee. Cutting back on caffeine too fast can trigger withdrawal headaches.
  • Get some air. Avoid hot, stuffy, or smoky places.
  • Spend a few minutes lying in a dark, quiet room.
  • Put a heat pack on the back of your neck for 20 minutes while you relax.
  • Watch your posture. Try not to slouch, slump, or bend over for long stretches of time.
  • Use a tennis ball while lying on the ground to massage tender areas in your neck and upper back.
  • Try the exercises to help stretch the muscles in your neck and upper back and to improve your posture. These exercises can be done at home or at work and should be repeated as often as possible (see Figures 3,4)

funkychickenFigure 3. The Chin Tuck- sitting straight with your shoulder blades back tuck your chin in while keeping your eyes at the same level without extending your head backward. This can be done as many times as possible throughout the day to decrease tension in the muscles at the base of the skull.

neck posture exerciseFigure 4. The shoulder opener- focus on rolling your shoulders backwards and downwards while squeezing your shoulder blades together. Your palms should face outwards as you do this. Hold for 30 seconds.

Headaches and Pregnancy

Being pregnant can be a headache — literally. (Maybe it's just nature's way of preparing you to be the mother of a teenager).

The primary culprit is, as usual, the hormonal changes but other causes of headaches might be pregnancy fatigue, tension in the muscles, increased hunger during pregnancy, physical or emotional stress, overheating or a combination of any or all of these.

A posture of a pregnant woman changes dramatically to accommodate the growing baby and this can have an effect on both the back and neck. There are therapists who are specially trained in pregnancy care.

Dr. Maja Edgar (our chiropractor) and Amanda Holmes (our massage therapist) use very effective, safe and gentle techniques to help relax muscles and decrease pain with pregnant patients.

In addition, check out the below link to a YouTube video of our very own Dr. Cameron Edgar talking about tips for combating headaches!


Burlington Health and Wellness Show

On Sunday, April 28, 2013, we attended the Burlington Health and Wellness show. It was a great day and we got to speak to people about how they can achieve better health. We answered questions from the public about their bodies and met lots of amazing practitioners who have the same goal as us; better, healthier lives. Here are some pictures from the days event.


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