Carpal Tunnel Syndrome as Early Diabetes Risk Indicator?

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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome as Early Diabetes Risk Indicator?

A Fresh Perspective from Clinical Experience

High on the list of possible triggers for carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) are blood sugar imbalances and metabolic issues.

However, it still is generally accepted that carpal tunnel syndrome is caused exclusively by repeat motion injuries, extreme tension, rheumatoid arthritis, or neuropathy (a complication of diabetes).

From years of gripping, pulling, twisting or typing action, CTS in these cases is the result of the narrowing of the nerve duct at the base of the wrist. This narrowing and constant pressure exerted on the sheath of the nerve may lead to inflammation and to temporary or permanent nerve damage, extreme pain, and reduced range of motion.

Common mainstream remedial approaches include corticosteroids,[1] insulin injections,[2] and eventually surgery; latter with a lengthy list of research dealing with surgery side effects. Treatment with corticosteroids in itself bears an increased risk of diabetes as a corticosteroid side effect.[3]

For more than a quarter of a century I have been working with patients who looked me up for help with constant pain in both wrists or individuals who came to see me after they had undergone bilateral surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome. It is remarkable that many of these individuals kept complaining about continued and unchanged pain long after their CTS surgery. From my clinical experience—and, as a former pianist—I can state that it is rather unusual to find repeat motion triggered carpal tunnel syndrome simultaneously in both wrists.

But, this is precisely what we are seeing in many a diabetic or pre-diabetic person. Initially, a small 2006 English study found that at least thirty-five percent of those individuals diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome might already be affected by metabolic changes. In plain English, these individuals found out that they were pre-diabetic when they were diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome.[4]

Since then, mainstream research identifies CTS as among the early risk indicators and warming signs for possible pre-diabetes or diabetes.[5] Vice versa, many diabetics develop signs and symptoms of CTS.[6]

Although a lot of research already points to close links between CTS and metabolic disease, a first line response to resolve CTS by controlling, preventing or reversing metabolic issues naturally rarely enters the clinically minded mainstream approach. But in many patients surgery could be avoided.

The nerve damage leading to carpal tunnel syndrome in many individuals may quite easily be explained by the known damage of high blood sugar levels on the fine nerve endings, particularly those of your extremities. Most importantly, these findings confirm that a lot of physical and functional damage occurs to the body well before the individual becomes aware that they are showing signs of pre-diabetes or even full-blown diabetes.

The earlier one recognizes a possible risk of underlying metabolic disorders the more can be done to counter it. In my book "At Risk? Avoid Diabetes by Recognizing Early Risk – A Natural Medicine Approach" I describe and cite over fifty conditions identified by research as early diabetes risk indicators.

A quarter century of an "urge-to-change lifestyle" regimen has proven effective in these individuals who experience bilateral CTS challenges along with early warning signs pointing to probable pre-diabetic changes. In those who followed the recommendations the wrist pain-related problems soon disappeared.

In addition to nutritional changes and blood sugar balance, effective approaches include treatments by osteopathy, trigger point therapy, and acupuncture.

The findings of the above-cited studies tying CTS and metabolic issues together, therefore, are no surprise. They provide lots of food for thought though and stress the importance of us helping to unravel the many questions we still have about our hugely growing threat of diabetes.

Keeping an open mind and advising our healthcare professional of connections between carpal tunnel syndrome and pre-diabetes or diabetes represents but such a first step towards less invasive approaches in individuals who display pain or full-fledged carpal tunnel syndrome in both wrists.

Help us raise awareness that surgery ought not be the first solution for carpal tunnel syndrome! 

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome - Diabetes Link Poll

Please consider taking our CTS/Diabetes POLL HERE

Check List: If you experience 3 to 4 of the following signs and symptoms please answer in the respective "AFFECTED" category.
- elevated blood sugar
- insulin issues
- hypertension, blood pressure >130/85
- elevated triglyceride or cholesterol levels
- beer-belly, spare tire
- overweight, obesity
- eye / vision problems
- gum disease
- burning tongue
- frequent or constant thirst
- frequent bathroom visits or foamy urine
- intestinal bloating
- frequent muscle spasms or cramps
- easy bruising, bad wound healing
- diarrhea or constipation
- lack of energy, fatigue
- disturbed sleep
- depression
- brain fog, loss of memory

Note: the above list is NOT a complete list of early diabetes risk signs and symptoms but represents a cross-section. 

Related Carpal Tunnel Research on

[1] Bratisl Lek Listy. 2011;112(6):337-41. Comparison of local steroid injection into carpal tunnel via proximal and distal approach in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome.

[2] Electromyogr Clin Neurophysiol. 2009 May-Jun;49(4):161-6. Evaluation of effectiveness of local insulin injection in none insulin dependent diabetic patient with carpal tunnel syndrome.

[3] Med Klin (Munich). 2010 Mar;105(3):150-4. Epub 2010 Mar 28. [Carpal tunnel syndrome in diabetes mellitus].

[4] J Peripher Nerv Syst. 2011 Sep;16(3):186-90. doi: 10.1111/j.1529-8027.2011.00344.x.  Insulin resistance increases risk of carpal tunnel syndrome: a case-control study

[5] Acta Neurol Scand. 2007 Aug;116(2):113-7.  Carpal tunnel syndrome and metabolic syndrome.

[6] Rheumatol Int. 2012 Apr 3. [Epub ahead of print]  Carpal tunnel syndrome and metabolic syndrome co-occurrence.


Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of GreenMedInfo or its staff.

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