Carpal tunnel syndrome is generally associated with the hand and wrist. It occurs as a direct result of pressure on the nerve at the base of the hand called the median nerve. The more pressure that builds in this area, the more pain that can be felt in the hand and wrist. It can also cause numbness or tingling in the fingers and make moving the hand difficult.
Can Carpal Tunnel Affect Your Shoulder?
If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, you may wonder if carpal tunnel pain can radiate to your shoulder and neck. While you cannot actually get carpal tunnel in your shoulder, since the syndrome itself is caused by pressure on a nerve in the wrist, you can still experience arm and shoulder pain.
Can Carpal Tunnel Cause Upper Back Pain?
Unfortunately, in addition to the pain in the hand, wrist, arm, shoulder, and neck, carpal tunnel can even cause upper back pain. In some cases, patients with carpal tunnel will actually experience pain in their back or neck before noticing any issue in their hand and wrist.
While it can be difficult to believe back pain and carpal tunnel syndrome could be related, consider the many ways the muscles in your arms, neck, and back are connected. If you experience pain in your hand or wrist, you may begin moving your arm in a different way to compensate without even realizing it. This can affect everything connected to that arm, including the neck and back.
Additionally, our nervous systems sometimes act in what feels like mysterious ways. Because everything is ultimately connected to the brain, a pinched nerve in one part of the body could cause pain in what seems like an unrelated part of the body. So while you can’t actually have carpal tunnel in your shoulder, the issue in your wrist can affect your shoulder.
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What Can You Do About Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Luckily, there are now many treatments available for carpal tunnel syndrome, especially if your carpal tunnel is making your shoulder hurt. Everyone is different, so you will need to work with a doctor to figure out what method works best for you, but some of the options to treat carpal tunnel include:
Adding Vitamin B6 to the diet
Splinting and keeping the affected wrist immobile, especially at night
Nerve gliding, which involves exercises to work the tissues around the nerves
Manual therapy, which in its simplest terms is a fancy back massage
Ultrasound to help the blood flow around the nerves
Steroids or other pain management medication
Surgery is also an option to treat carpal tunnel syndrome but is no longer the only option.
While carpal tunnel sounds scary, especially when you read that list of the many places it can cause you pain, remember there are many treatment options and things you can do to find relief.