What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a condition caused by a narrowing of the carpal tunnel causing a compression of the structures within the tunnel, including the median nerve. This compression of the median nerve is what causes the uncomfortable symptoms of tingling, numbness and pain.
The median nerve is the nerve that travels down the arm into the hand. With CTS, the nerve is squeezed as it passes through the narrow path (or tunnel) at the wrist. To enter the hand, the median nerve must pass through the narrow opening at the wrist joint. On one side of the wrist joint are bones, and on the other is a strong ligament, flexor retinaculum, that runs across the wrist. The ligament and the bones form a firm channel that has little ability to expand.
The pressure on the wrist can cause the fingers and thumb to feel tingly and numb. They may even feel paralyzed. The symptoms will most likely begin as mild, increase to moderate and eventually become severe if left untreated. Mild symptoms will most likely begin with tingling and numbness in one or more than one of the tips of your fingers. This may be accompanied by pain around the wrist area and interruption in sleep. Symptoms can increase to include the whole hand, numbness for an increased amount of time, and more severe pain.
Carpal tunnel affects mostly women; the ratio has been reported as high as 9 to 1 according to a report in the Journal of Hand Surgery, 1997. About 87 percent of cases have bilateral symptoms (affecting both the right and left hands).
What causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
- Injury to the wrist can lead to it.
- Different kinds of arthritis that cause the wrists to swell can also cause Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS).
- Repeated movements and heavy use of the hand and wrist may play a role. Some people who have jobs or hobbies that make them use their hands and wrists in this way may be at greater risk of getting CTS.
- People with diabetes may get CTS.
- There may be a link between CTS and hormones. Some women get CTS after a change in certain hormones, such as during pregnancy.
What are the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)?
CTS presents with pain, tingling and numbness in the hands and fingers. The symptoms of CTS are constantly annoying, cause you to wake up at night, and are usually worse in the morning. The symptoms make activities of daily living much more difficult and can prevent you from getting work done. If you have CTS, you may drop everything, writing hurts, typing hurts, gripping hurts, using the hands hurts. Get the correct diagnosis by a physician.
How do I use CTRAC?
Ctrac is quick and easy to use. It takes just five minutes, three times a day for four to six weeks! Just follow the instructions:
- Place on hand as shown in the picture here.
- Inflate for two minutes.
- Deflate for one minute.
- Inflate again for two minutes.
Click here to watch CTRAC instructions.
How do I know what size to purchase?
Hand sizes vary from person to person. Based on standard deviations, we have come up with three different sizes based on the distance between the metacarpophalangeal joint distance from the index finger to the little finger (the width of the knuckles). Visit the Order Ctrac page for more details or measure your hand as seen on this page. Choose the closest to your size.
- Small: Less than three inches
- Medium: Between three and four inches
- Large: Between four and five inches
- X-large: More than five inches
How long do I have to use CTRAC?
A stretching program of five minutes, three times a day for four to six weeks would be sufficient for most mild to moderate cases with usage of one to two times a month for maintenance during the following six months. This would maintain the carpal ligament (as well stretched) with minimal recurrence. For severe cases, it may be more appropriate for patients to follow a six-to-eight-week program with two to four times a month (five minutes each time) for maintenance for the first six months after the initial weeks of treatment.
Our clinical study showed by the seventh month, most patients had no symptoms when using Ctrac and needed no other therapy for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
Do I have to sleep with CTRAC on at night?
No. CTRAC is used three times a day for five minutes at a time. Use it for two minutes at a pressure of 180 mmHg; take one minute of rest; and then use it for another two minutes at 180mmHg for a total of five minutes. See instructions on package for more details.
I was just diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Can I use CTRAC during therapy?
When will my symptoms go away?
Symptom improvement varies from patient to patient. Some people may get complete relief of symptoms in several days and other may see relief after several weeks of treatment. The research shows that the first symptom alleviated is lack of sleep. Patients started to sleep through the night early in the treatment (see Research). It is recommended that you continue using CTRAC for the whole treatment period of six weeks even if your symptoms have improved.
Research shows that mild cases of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome respond the fastest to CTRAC therapy. If you have a mild case, you can expect very rapid improvement. In just one-two weeks your symptoms should decrease significantly. Please note: The diagnosis criteria of mild, moderate and severe is dictated by an electromyography/nerve conduction study; not by the intensity of pain, tingling and numbness.
Moderate cases generally respond in one to four weeks with excellent improvement by the fourth week. Severe cases showed very good improvement by the sixth week but some needed to use the device up to eight to nine weeks in order to obtain excellent results. Check out the research table from our research summary to find how each patient was classified and how their pain, tingling and numbness responded to CTRAC therapy during the study.
Will my symptoms come back?
What should I do if my symptoms come back?
Can I use CTRAC even if I already had surgery?
Why don't I just have the surgery and get this over with?
We recommend that you consult with and listen to your physician, but surgery may just be the beginning. There is no such a thing as a minor surgery; it is minor surgery for everyone except the person who is having it. As with any surgical procedure, surgery has its risks. Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery risks include, but are not limited to: infection, more pain, nerve injury, inability to work for a long period after surgery, etc. Talk to your physician about the risks. Researchers and patients alike have been looking for alternative treatment to surgery for many years, because surgery does not work for a high percentage of patients who have it. Some other patients get well for a short period only to find that the symptoms have returned and they have to have another surgery.
CTRAC has been shown to be extremely effective with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) patients. In one particular patient who had CTS in both hands, his surgeon told him that he had severe CTS in one hand and mild in the other. The surgeon recommended surgery in his mild hand since his severe hand was not going to get better even with surgery. He had surgery in his mildly symptomatic hand. He used CTRAC for his severe hand. His severe hand improved with CTRAC even before the surgical pain got better.
My PCP sent me to the surgeon! Is there any way I can avoid surgery?
Most primary care physicians (PCPs) will try resting hand splints, occupational or physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medication and some will even try cortisone injections. If these treatments do not work, patients are referred to either a neurologist or a surgeon. The neurologist can confirm the diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome by performing a electromyography/nerve conduction study.
At this point, you have completed “conservative treatment.” Your doctor did try to decrease the inflammation and some patients will obtain relief. But none of these treatments tried to “open the tunnel.” If you are not one of those who obtained relief from these treatments, you will most likely get a recommendation to see a surgeon.
Then what? It will be reiterated that conservative therapy was tried and failed and you will be told you NEED surgery to “open the tunnel and take the pressure off the nerve.”
Could the pressure be taken off the nerve without surgery? That is what CTRAC was designed for. Read the clinical trial summary here for more details.
Is CTRAC Alternative Medicine?
If alternative medicine means no drugs, no surgery, treating yourself at home, and restoring the carpal ligament to the way nature made it without altering it with surgery, steroids or medication, then, yes, it can be considered Alternative Therapy for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS).
If mainstream medicine means clinically researched and tested under control in the correct patients in order to verify it is efficient and true to its claims, and it produces relief, improved function and improves quality of life, then, yes, it is also mainstream medicine.
Every day, more and more physicians are recommending Ctrac for their patients. They understand conservative treatment for CTS is incomplete without stretching and opening the carpal tunnel prior to surgery.
Discuss Ctrac with your physician, print the letter to the physician available on this site and review the research study summary. Take this to your physician.
Why do so many people have surgery to treat their Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
The AAOS estimated there were 330,000 carpal tunnel release surgeries in the United States in 2007.
So many people end up having surgery because conservative treatment does not attempt to “open” the carpal tunnel. Conservative therapies like splinting, medications, injections, acupuncture, light therapy, fluido therapy, creams, ICE or heat do not even attempt to increase the area of the carpal tunnel. Consequently, the pressure on the nerve continues and the patients eventually have to undergo surgery to “open” their carpal tunnel to take pressure off the median nerve.
Surgery focuses on opening the carpal tunnel and on taking the pressure off the median nerve by increasing the area of the carpal tunnel but, it is done by cutting the carpal ligament with surgery. Ctrac opens the carpal tunnel without surgery.
Physicians, chiropractors, physical and occupational therapists occasionally attempt to open the carpal tunnel manually. This would work if the force used was consistent and if the manipulation could be done three times a day by the doctor. We all understand this is unrealistic.
CTRAC was designed as a way of providing those same daily carpal ligament stretches and manipulations at home with excellent and consistent results. Thousands of patients have been able to stay away from surgery by using CTRAC. Most patients obtain 70-80 percent relief in the first two weeks of using CTRAC without the risks of surgery.
Am I at risk for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Anyone who uses their hands is at risk for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). Any routine or work-related tasks that are consistent and repetitive in motion can cause CTS, particularly:
- Patients with cumulative trauma to the hands:
• Hand vibration for prolonged periods
• Chronic repetitive wrist flexion/extension
• Positioning (casting, sleeping on hands)
• Hand weight bearing (SCI, bicycling)
• Repetitive finger motion (typist, musician)
• Forceful gripping activities
• Use of assistive device (cane/crutch/wheelchair)
- Patients with metabolic/physiological issues:
• Fluid balance abnormalities
• Chronic hemodialysis
• Inflammatory Disorders
• Rheumatoid arthritis
• Infectious agents