Does Cold Weather Make Carpal Tunnel Worse?
Authored by Medical Expert: Doctor Michelle Robin, DC, Wellness Expert, Founder of Your Wellness Connection, Naturopath
Question by Benjamin in Dearborn, Michigan
Answer by Doctors:
Cold weather often leads to cold hands. This is especially true for people with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. The same pressure that builds and pinches the Median Nerve in the Carpal Tunnel will also put pressure on blood vessels in that area, restricting blood flow. With limited blood supply hands get cold quickly in cold weather. People with CTS will often experience chronic cold hands even in mild weather.
Some people ask, so isn’t icing good for healing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Therefore, Cold Hands should help heal this frustrating hand condition, right?
It is true, icing can be an effective treatment to aid in healing and calm the swelling of the injured soft tissue around the Carpal Tunnel. The injured tissue causes the pressure to build up and pinch the nerve. However, for therapeutic icing a person would only do it for 15 to 20 minutes, two to three times per day at most. After that you reach the point of diminishing returns with icing. Also, recent studies have shown that alternating ice therapy and heat therapy is a more effective way to perform icing therapy because it enhances circulation and generates a sort of body pump to keep blood moving while calming the injured tissue.
Normal blood circulation is a key to natural healing and dispersion of lymphatic fluids. Chronically cold hands limit blood circulation further through vasoconstriction, a normal response of the body to conserve heat. When a person already has restricted blood circulation due to Carpal Tunnel, the two factors combine to make CTS much worse. It is cyclical. One contributes to the other.
So, cold weather does make Carpal Tunnel Syndrome worse.
Nerve conduction studies show that nerve response slows in cold temperatures and validates the effect of cold weather on any nerve condition.
Most people intuitively know that Cold Temperatures will intensify the feeling of pain in any part of the body, especially when a person tries sudden movement from a static position with cold joints or muscles.
There is a reason athletes warm up, slowing bringing their muscles and soft tissue up to game speed temperature. Muscles and soft tissue that are warm are more flexible and ready to perform at a high level.
Their isn’t complete agreement with scientists that weather causes pain, but there are some theories that could explain why people say their pain worsens with damp, cold, rainy weather.
One leading theory points to changes in air pressure as a storm front moves through an area.
It is measured as Barometric Pressure and refers to the weight of the atmosphere that surrounds us.
Barometric pressure does change and can affect people’s bodies.
There is some evidence that supports the concept that a sudden change in barometric pressure can actually induce labor with women in the later stages of pregnancy.
When barometric pressure drops before a storm, it can also cause the soft tissue to expand and put more pressure on a joint or on the median nerve in the case of Carpal tunnel Syndrome. In winter time there are usually more storms and hence more variations in barometric pressure.
It is part of the human condition to generally take our hands for granted.
However, our hands are critical to performing most daily tasks.
We do everything with our hands – brush our hair, put on makeup, shave, brush our teeth, play the piano, write, eat, work, clean, surf the web, shovel snow, garden, cook, type, play video games, ski, text, and use smart phones all with our hands.
We assume we will always be able to use our hands until Carpal Tunnel Syndrome flares up. Then pain and numbness takes over our lives with sleeplessness, loss of fine motor skills, loss of grip strength, and inability to function in our normal activities.
You feel the pain, but to other people, the notion of time off from work for a condition they cannot, see often paints the sufferer as a hypochondriac!
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Direct impact on the Nerve creates the worst kinds of pain there is!
That is why people fear going to the dentist, there are more nerve endings in the mouth and nose than any other part of the body. Working around all those nerve endings can create intense discomfort. It is the same with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, where the nerve is being directly impacted with pressure.
So what can be done to manage cold weather and Carpal Tunnel flare-ups?
Here are six Cold Weather Tips for Managing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:
- Wear gloves or mittens in winter weather to keep your hands protected from the cold.
- Use hand warmers if you are out in the Cold for a prolong time period
- Move and stretch your arms and hands regularly to keep blood circulation consistent, even while watching TV, Surfing the Net, reading or just relaxing. Movement is a good thing to promote circulation.
- If you decide to do icing therapy, do alternating ice and heat, 2 minutes of warm water completely submerged, and two minutes of ice water completely submerged. Alternate every two minutes for up to 20 minutes.
- Do gentle day time hand stretches when your hands are warm. Easy into it slowly. We can provide you with stretching help and suggestions– What stretches are effect to do and what stretches and exercises not to do. Some stretches and hand exercises do more damage than good. Email us at [email protected] put “Daytime Hand Stretches” in the title of your email.
- Order the Carpal Solution Stretching Treatment and have it on hand before the winter months begin so that you are ready to treat it proactively before it causes you to lose sleep and be unable to perform at work or play. It is the easy way to keep Carpal Tunnel in check during the Winter or at any time Order The Carpal Solution
In general, keep moving, stay active, don’t let your hands get cold, and use the Carpal Solution Stretching Therapy at night during sleep.
The Carpal Solution really helps when these flair ups occur in the winter. It puts you in control. There is no reason to panic and go to invasive procedures like steroid injections or Carpal Tunnel Surgery. These have a lot of risks and potential complications. Carpal Tunnel returns for over 85% of people after even a “successful surgery” within 6 months to 8 years. Surgery is definitely a last resort because success rates by patients are listed at between 50-60%. That is low for any medical procedure. CTS comes back for 98% of people after steroid injections within 2 to 3 months. Medical text books warn against doing more than 2 steroid injections in any joint due to joint deterioration. Wrist Splints can help in the beginning by immobilizing the hand and wrist, but in the long run immobilization leads to muscle atrophy and these rigid hand braces make Carpal Tunnel worse.
Learn more about Carpal Tunnel Treatment
Dr. Moran is a Surgeon in San Clemente, CA who developed Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. For years she tried different Carpal Tunnel Treatments. Twice she schedule surgery and then cancelled it fearing the potential complication and what surgery might do to her Career as a Surgeon. Then she found a Carpal Tunnel Cure.