A Brief Description of the Simple Supplements That Help Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome hurts. Inflammation hurts. Fish oil relieves inflammation, so people who have carpal tunnel syndrome should take fish oil, right?

There are many reasons people who have carpal tunnel syndrome may happen to benefit from taking fish oil. But for treating carpal tunnel syndrome, a different supplement is likely to be a lot more helpful at first. Let me explain why.

What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is not a condition caused by inflammation. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition caused by compression.

The carpal tunnel protects the median nerve, the nerve that conducts signals to and from the hand and fingers back up the arm. Repetitive motion can cause the ligaments holding this protective tunnel in place to be bent and twisted out of shape and out of place. This makes the carpal tunnel narrower. The median nerve is not as able to send instructions to the muscles in the hand, and it may register numbness, tingling, burning pain, or stabbing pain as if they were coming from the fingers.

The pain of carpal tunnel syndrome often keeps people up at night, and loss of muscle power in the thumbs and fingers makes it difficult to pick up small objects, type, tie strings, and perform many tasks of daily life.

How to Stop Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The most important thing to do in stopping carpal tunnel syndrome is to stop the motions that stress the carpal tunnel. This may mean taking a break from typing, assembly line work, mechanic work, playing musical instruments, and other activities that place physical stress on the muscle.

It can also help to loosen the connective tissue called fascia that hold the carpal tunnel in place. You do this not just with gentle exercises involving the fingers and thumbs but also with exercises for the arms, shoulder, neck, and back. At a later date we will provide you with an ebook explaining exercises for carpal tunnel from this site.

But you can also encourage the growth of protective collagen that strengthens the walls of the carpal tunnel. You do this by avoiding excesses of vitamin C while making sure you get enough vitamin B6.

Balancing Supplements for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

A study of 441 adults who had carpal tunnel syndrome found that those who had higher bloodstream levels of vitamin C and lower bloodstream levels vitamin B6 had more carpal tunnel pain. This was followed by a number of studies of how best to use vitamin B6 to relieve carpal tunnel pain.

A series of studies established that too much vitamin B6, like too much vitamin C, was as big a problem as too little. One study found that just 2 mg of vitamin B6 a day reduced pain. Taking 100 mg of B6 a day reduced pain enough that participants in the clinical trial were able to avoid carpal tunnel surgery. Taking 200 mg of B6 a day however, actually increased pain.

The way vitamin B6 works seems to be by changing the carpal tunnel nerve's threshhold for pain.

Up to the 100 mg/day dosage, taking more B6 reduces the "phantom pain," which is not associated with any actual inflammation, in the carpal tunnel nerve.

Beyond that point, it seems to increase the nerve's sensitivity to "real" pain that may be caused by muscle strains associated with dealing with the condition.

Almost anyone who has carpal tunnel syndrome, a number of medical reports conclude, benefits by taking up to 100 mg of vitamin B6 per day.

People who especially benefit from B6 supplements are those who take medications that interfere with the body's ability to absorb or use B6, such as cycloserine for tuberculosis, hydralazine for high blood pressure, phenelzine for panic attacks, or penicillamine for rheumatoid arthritis.

Who Shouldn't Take Vitamin B6

On the other hand, some people should not take B6. These include people who take Artane (L-dopa) for Parkinsons' disease, Theodur (theophylline) for asthma, and either phenytoin or valproic acid for seizure disorders or migraine. The problem with combining these medications and vitamin B6 supplements is that the vitamin can make the medication less effective.

If You Are also Suffering From Diabetes

There is one other supplement that can help carpal tunnel syndrome sufferers who have diabetes, alpha-lipoic acid. Start with 200 mg of alpha-lipoic acid and 2 mg of the B vitamin biotin every day. Alpha-lipoic acid increases the body's need for biotin. Diabetics tell me that up to 2,000 mg of alpha-lipoic acid every day help, but that is a very high dose that will cause changes in urine and feces and that can cause skin problems if you don't take your biotin. R-lipoic acid does not offer any advantages over alpha-lipoic acid for this condition.

And What about Fish Oil for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

There actually has been one study of fish oil for treating carpal tunnel pain, conducted at the Canadian Centre for Integrative Medicine and the Physiatry Interventional Pain Clinic in Toronto and reported in Clinical Journal of Pain in 2010. Fish oil can relieve carpal tunnel pain and keep it away for up to 19 months after the last capsule is taken-but the effective dosage may be as high as 7,200 mg of DHA + EPA a day. That's about 18 capsules of Xtend-Life, which because of its high DHA content, would be the best product for carpal tunnel pain.

Most people won't take 18 capsules of fish oil a day for the year or so it takes to get maximum results. If you will, however, you can have a much more complete reduction in pain than you can get from either pain medication of vitamin B6.

Why should it take so much fish oil to get results? Frankly, experimenters don't know. As little as 2,400 mg a day (6 capsules of Xtend-Life) may help. But the best results seem to require the highest amounts of fish oil. It also helps to take B6, to avoid taking vitamin C, and to take alpha-lipoic acid if you have diabetes.

Selected References:
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  • Ellis JM, Folkers K, Levy M, Shizukuishi S, Lewandowski J, Nishii S, et al. Response of vitamin B-6 deficiency and the carpal tunnel syndrome to pyridoxine. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 1982;79(23):7494-8.
  • Folkers K, Ellis J, Watanabe T, Saji S, Kaji M. Biochemical evidence for a deficiency of vitamin B6 in the carpal tunnel syndrome based on a crossover clinical study. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 1978;75(7):3410-2.
  • Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. Dietary reference intakes for thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12, pantothenic acid, biotin and choline. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 1997.
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  • Ko GD, Nowacki NB, Arseneau L, Eitel M, Hum A. Omega-3 fatty acids for neuropathic pain: case series. Clin J Pain. 2010 Feb;26(2):168-72.
  • Holm G, Moody LE. Carpal tunnel syndrome: current theory, treatment, and the use of B6. J Am Acad Nurse Pract. 2003;15:18-22.
  • Kasdan M, Janes C. Carpal tunnel syndrome and vitamin B6. Plast Reconstr Surg. 1987;79:456-8.
  • Sizer F, Whitney E. Nutrition: concepts and controversies. 10. Belmont, Calif: Thomson Wadsworth; 2006.
  • Spooner GR, Desai HB, Angel JF, Reeder BA, Donat JR. Using pyridoxine to treat carpal tunnel syndrome. Randomized control trial. Can Fam Physician. 1993;39:2122-7.
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