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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in Your Neck & Shoulders?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in Your Neck & Shoulders?

Posted on 14. Nov, 2011 by in Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Over the years people have come to accept that hand and wrist pain, tingling, or numbness signals localized injury. In any case, hundreds of people get wrist surgery every year to relieve these symptoms – it therefore seems logical to suspect injury when these symptoms manifest.

What is not in the public arena is that many people who have undergone wrist and hand surgery continue to experience hand, wrist, and arm pain or tingling. Others only get temporary relief before the problem recurs with more intensity. Still, other patients develop symptoms similar to carpal tunnel syndrome following whiplash or neck sprain/strain. They may not have any wrist injury but still have severe pain in the hand. Why does this happen?

One explanation is a wrong diagnosis. Since the body is a complex network of joints, tissue, nerves, ligaments, muscle and other components, it is possible that a symptom evident at one part of the body may be caused by a trigger located in a different part of the body. This approach to healing is more holistic as opposed to the often disjointed medical view. Doctors tend to specialize in various body parts. Specialists are usually good at specific diseases and ailments but sometimes make the wrong diagnosis when multiple bodily systems are involved. Mark Twain had a saying for it: “When You’re A Hammer, All You See is Nails.”

More and more emerging research demonstrates this to be the case in carpal tunnel patients. Recent studies show that most carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms are caused by muscle imbalances in your neck and shoulders, causing poor posture, trigger points, nerve compression and pain shooting down your arm.

We’ve turned into a more postural distorted society where we sit most of the day. People often go from their cars, to their desk and computer, back to their cars, and right plop into their couch. Raising the remote control is often the highest their arms get above throughout the day.

This lack of movement creates muscles imbalances, and most relevant to carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms is the rounding shoulders and forward head posture. When the shoulders round, and head moves forward, the muscles in the neck and shoulders compress nerves that run down the arm. This compression in the neck and shoulders typically produces hand, wrist and arm tingling, pain or numbness.

The same “computer” rounding shoulders and forward head posture cause the trigger points in the neck and shoulder muscles to activate and radiate pain down the arm. The “landmine” knots actually refer pain into the hand, wrist and arm causing carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms.

This is why most hand, wrist, and arm tingling and pain, or “carpal tunnel syndrome” actually comes from the neck and shoulders.

Seeing a Neuromuscular Therapist for proper wrist and neck examination is the key to correct diagnosis. Poor examination leads to wrong diagnosis and unsuccessful treatment – in this case, surgery. Before you allow someone to cut into your flesh with a scalpel you should give neuromuscular therapy and posture realignment exercises a chance. If the symptoms in your wrist are caused by muscle imbalances, trigger points or postural distortions in your neck and shoulders, surgery to the wrist will prove to be unsuccessful treatment.

If you’re a Los Angeles hand, wrist or arm pain, tingling, or numbness sufferer or looking for a pain management or pain relief specialist, call now.

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41 Responses to “Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in Your Neck & Shoulders?”

  1. williemaeelloie

    17. Dec, 2012

    l was diagnosed with carpal tunnel of the necck and was told that i need to see a specialist because I have two knots in the back of my neck .What should I do.

    Reply to this comment
    • Michael

      05. Jan, 2013

      Hi,
      I suggest finding a Neuromuscular Therapist, as well as doing postural alignment exercises. Check out my video site at http://www.GetPainFree.Tv for more info. Let me know if you need any further help.
      cheers,
      Michael

      Reply to this comment
  2. Kirstin

    25. Jan, 2013

    My husband is a tree trimmer (10 yrs) and is having problems with his shoulder. Says it is very “achey”. Could this be Carpal Tunnel?

    Reply to this comment
    • Michael

      25. Jan, 2013

      Hi Kirstin,
      Most likely it’s not. Problems with the neck/shoulder often lead to symptoms in the hand, wrist and arm, yet not vice versa.
      If he’s having neck and shoulder issues, it’s most likely an issue in that region.
      check out my video site for more info on this
      cheers,
      Michael

      Reply to this comment
    • Michael

      13. Mar, 2013

      most likely it’s not carpal tunnel.
      check out my video site for more info

      Reply to this comment
  3. Martin

    06. Feb, 2013

    Good write up, in my experience i had suffered with typical carpal tunnel symptoms for 7 years + had the wrist op. on both hands in 2009.
    I was informed after the op. i could have perminant damage because of the time i ignored carple tunnel.
    Within 6 months it had fully returned, although seeminly different. Wasnt getting it while driving, eating, etc. but during the night the symtoms had reaccured worse.
    I’m currently waiting to see a speicalist about the possibility of neck/shoulder carple tunnel problems.
    I do an extreamly phisical job and havent slept propery since 2003.
    Il check out your video link!!
    Thanks for any advice in advance!!

    Reply to this comment
  4. freddy

    16. Feb, 2013

    hi,
    im currently working with a Physical Therapist to help eleviate swelling and pain from carpal tunnel syndrom.
    i have also noticed pain in my shoulder,forearm and wist.along with the pain,i have muscle weakness.
    can you give me an idea of what the real problem may be?
    i do a lot of driving,and am i machine mechanic.repetitive motion and heavy work for 22 years.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Mai

    22. Feb, 2013

    Hi. I was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome on my left hand and schedule to have an operation. But lately and it’s almost 3wks now I feel pain both on my neck and shoulder (left side), I can hardly move my arms. Does ít has something to do with CTS? And will an operation helps? Many thanks.

    Reply to this comment
  6. Trina

    22. Feb, 2013

    Hi Michael
    I have had Carpel Tunnel symptoms for a few years now. Lately I am experiencing upper arm shoulder and neck pain on both sides could this be connected with CTS?
    Check out my video site for more info on this

    Trina

    Reply to this comment
    • Michael

      13. Mar, 2013

      Hi Trina,
      the upper arm, shoulder and neck pain typically comes from a chain of muscles out balance.
      Meaning, from poor posture and/or stress, some of the muscles get too tight, some get too overstretched.
      It’s only connected to the carpal tunnel in the sense that both the CTS, and the Neck/Shoulder pain are symptoms of muscle imbalances, and postural distortions.
      hope that helps, let me know if i can help further.
      check out my video site for more info on all this.
      cheers,
      Michael

      Reply to this comment
  7. Sue-Ann

    04. Mar, 2013

    I have had neck and shoulder pain fro the last 4 weeks, it’s predominantly on the left side. it goes from just bearable to really painful and stiff. For the past week I have had consistent tingling in my fingers as well as occasional numbness.
    From what I’ve researched it sounds like carpal tunnel syndrome. Is this the case?

    Thanks,
    Sue

    Reply to this comment
    • Michael

      13. Mar, 2013

      Hi Sue-Ann,
      if it stems from the neck and shoulders, it’s not carpal tunnel syndrom.
      search “thoracic outlet syndrome” , “scalene muscle trigger points” online.
      posture is key for all this.
      Check out my video site for more info on this
      let me know how else i may help.
      cheers,
      Michael

      Reply to this comment
  8. daniel helm

    10. Mar, 2013

    Thought i had carpal tunnel for years came and went then got real bad then was refered for surgery, where they asked if i had been tested for carpal tunnel, so they could be sure it was carpal tunnel and not a more serious neck issue,since surgery things have gone worse to most days i want to die,shoulders drawn to my neck and arms all lambe severe pain in my arms neck and legs, pain clinic and pcp are treating me for mild ddd

    Reply to this comment
    • Michael

      13. Mar, 2013

      Hi Daniel,
      really sorry to hear that.
      chronic pain is often debilitating, and the medical model often is a challenging route to heal.
      check out my video site for more info on this
      I wish you the best,
      Michael

      Reply to this comment
  9. Bridget

    13. Mar, 2013

    I have had carpal tunnel surgery. Now I’m experiencing achey pain in my shoulder (back of shoulder) and numbness going down my right arm. I have also had an ulnar release before the carpal tunnel. Could this still be affiliated with Carpal Tunnel in which I just had that surgery last October?

    Reply to this comment
    • Michael

      13. Mar, 2013

      Hi Bridget,
      it could be affiliate yet typically it’s the neck/shoulder muscles referring pain down into the shoulder and arms.
      check out and do a google search for these 3 terms, i think you’ll find it helpful: “scalene muscle trigger points” , “subscapularis muscle trigger points” and “thoracic outlet syndrome”
      check out my video site for more info on this
      let me know how else i may help.
      cheers,
      Michael

      Reply to this comment
  10. Annette Lusher

    13. Mar, 2013

    Dear Michael,
    My grandson, Nick Waterhouse, forwarded me your article. I had an EMG and it showed severe carpal tunnel in my right wrist and less severe in my left. I’m scheduled to see a plastic surgeon who frequently does this surgery next week an now don’t know what do after reading all of the above! I have a weak right shoulder resulting from arthritic spurs following a torn rotator cuff many years ago. BUT I am not in any pain. Just tingling and numbness in my right fingers constantly and occasionally in my left. Due to a bad back, I’m pretty inactive and do spend a lot of time at my computer. What do you suggest I do now? Do you know of any neuromuscular thereapists in the Cleveland, Ohio area that you can suggest? Oh, I should tell you, too., that my EMG showed a pinched nerve in my neck. I’m really in a dilemma as to what I should do now? Please advise.

    Reply to this comment
  11. Kathyann Walker

    25. Mar, 2013

    Hi , I work daily as a CSR and I type on a computer and I have been diagnosed with CTS. My right wrist is swollen and sometimes numb and recently the pain has moved to my shoulders and neck and currently, I am having pain in my left shoulder and arm. Is this really CTS?

    Reply to this comment
  12. Hugh Beaumont

    25. Mar, 2013

    I get numbness in my left arm just sitting at my computer, but my left shoulder severely hurts when I try to put it in a “half nelson” position, or raise it over my head. I also have a “divot” running down my forearm that really shows up when I bend my wrist backward. Any ideas?

    Reply to this comment
  13. Alicia

    30. Mar, 2013

    For the past 17 years, I have had the gamut of “quick” but seemingly off target diagnoses such as MS, carpal tunnel limited to impingement at the wrist…..yet when I MYSELF give input on the fact that my predominant neck, shoulder and positive subclavicular TOS press aggravation…as well as subscapularis trigger points (causing UNBEARABLE axillary pain at times)… I’m called “difficult”, “stubborn”, “non compliant”, and treated like Elaine Benes on Seinfeld…with a stigma attached. I cannot help that I’ve moved a lot in my military career…and that I have to see multiple specialists when referred. They all GENERALLY say that “all I need is an antidepressant”, or that it is like psychosomatic, or that I should just schedule the wrist release and stop fighting it. I know that I definitely suffer from a combo or CUBITAL, CARPAL, AND SUBSCAPULAR impingement, whether or not it is radiating and referred….I’m uncomfortable, unhopeful, and jaded because of how I’ve been treated….it is bizzarre!! I know my body…I know my pains…I know the spasms, the tingling, the head turning exacerbation, the axillary stabbing pain, and the definite weakness…..help me….I will fly to LA…if you think this is familiar!

    Reply to this comment
  14. Natalie

    04. May, 2013

    I have a standard set of carpal tunnel symptoms, but no tingling. It started as an overuse injury in my right hand 2 years ago, due to one night of 8hr laptop mouse use. As I began to compensate with my left hand, it developed the problems too. I began to avoid the computer, but over time the pain became a constant. I have it no matter what I do now. It has spread to my arms and trapezius. I cannot carry a small bag for more than 15 minutes without triggering greater shoulder pain.
    I would describe the pain as dull but tight, and constant. It is kind of like when you do stretches, but what if you never stopped feeling that stretch pain no matter how you positioned yourself.

    Reply to this comment
    • Michael

      04. May, 2013

      Hi Natalie,

      there’s a lot more info, check out and subscribe my YouTube and Facebook channel at http://www.GetPainFree.tv
      I’ll be posting postural exercises that help to alleviate these symptoms.

      Let me know if you have any questions.

      thanks,
      Michael

      Reply to this comment
      • Janice J

        06. May, 2013

        Hi Alicia and all;
        I took the test that confirmed i have carpal tunnel but I was never satisfied with that answer because of what happened ot me. One morning my right arm and hand were completely numb and it woke me up out of a deep sleep.
        I was trying to stretch it out so I could get the blood flow back and I popped out my neck and couldn’t hardly move it to the right. I had to take a week off of work it was that bad. But what was interesting was as soon as I popped my neck out it was like a gush of water was flowing from my neck thru my vains to my hand and instantly no more numbness. at least for that space in time. what was that.?

        Reply to this comment
  15. Evelin

    05. May, 2013

    I have carpal tunnel symdrome in both hands but my right hand is moderate and also have it in my elbow as well I’m still waiting on my surgery but 6 days ago I having this headache when I try to stand up I feel cramps or more like stabbing pain in back of my head and neck is not going away. Could this be carpal tunnel in my neck???

    Reply to this comment
  16. Michele

    03. Jun, 2013

    i have read a lot of the comments above, I have carpal tunnel in both hands. I have had it for 7 yrs., for the past couple years I have had shoulder pain and just recently started to have neck pain. You suggested seeing a neuromuscular therapist, what is the difference in a physical therapist, massagae therapist, and a neuromuscular therapist? Could I see a massage therapist and get the same results?

    Reply to this comment
    • Michael

      06. Jun, 2013

      Hi Michele,
      a Neuromuscular Therapist, preferably a veteran (15 + years experience) in the St. John Method of Neuromuscular Therapy, is a specific field of manual soft-tissue therapy, trained to release the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and trigger points more specifically than anyone else. You don’t find the same results and training with a regular massage therapist or physical therapist, and hence less results.
      hope that helps.
      cheers,
      Michael

      Reply to this comment
  17. Mel

    13. Jul, 2013

    I hurt my shoulder 6 myths ago whilst doing weights at the gym. I was diagnosed with shoulder bursitis. In the following 4 months I had 2 cortisone injections & ongoing physio. The injections didn’t offer any relief. I since have been having pain down my arm & wrist. I have now had further tests done by a neurologist & have carpal tunnel in the wrist of the affect arm with injured shoulder & also CTS in the other wrist, but with no symptoms. Do you think the shoulder bursitis and the CTS are related. No doctors seem to be able to help or give a straight answer( they’re just happy to take my money :o ( ). Thanks!

    Reply to this comment
    • Michael

      14. Jul, 2013

      Hi Mel,
      sorry to hear about your shoulder.
      in my experience, the diagnosis “bursitis” is commonly used as a generic term, and really means “I have no clue what it is.” :)
      Most pain, numbness, tingling in the arms, hands, fingers are at the source a Shoulder/Neck muscle imbalance issue.
      This is why doctors can’t figure it out, because they have no training in this.
      Many shoulder muscles refer and radiate pain in the arm/hand. Also, the muscle imbalance creates a shortening in many of the neck/shoulder muscles, which can easily put pressure on the nerves that travel down the arm.
      Hope that helps.
      cheers,
      Michael

      Reply to this comment
  18. Mel

    15. Jul, 2013

    Thanks so much Michael!!

    Reply to this comment
  19. mihi

    31. Jul, 2013

    Hi there, I have had pain just on my left side only from head to my wrist side only on my left. , my legs are fine everywhere else my body is fine,but last year I was diagnosed with bursitis on my right shoulder, this subsided with physio etc, now my left side is in constant pain but this pain is all from my head down to wrist. This cause me to have migraines only located on my left side though, thinking this is cause from the pain. A few weeks ago I had an intense muscle spasm on my left shoulder blade, I had morphine, and am on a cocktail of pain relief including morphine. I had a ultrasound and xray done, ultra sound showed my shoulder looked fine but have not had this seen by my doctor yet, I’m concerned that they don’t find anything in my results and the pain is always going to be there, I don’t want to be on pain relief all my life as I’m only 38 years. I have had the pain for a year but has been constant the last 3-4 months.

    Reply to this comment
  20. Chas

    31. Jul, 2013

    I’m 53 and on my 3rd round of P90X. I’m in great shape but have left shoulder pain. I can lift things easily with no pain. The shoulder pain only comes when I’m on computer or driving (left handed so left hand holds wheel) …no issues lifting heavy things. Xrays showed “slight bursitis” left shoulder. When I rotate my arm I hear pretty loud clicking sounds. No pain in arm or wrist but half the time the shoulder pain seems to hurt also in my collar bone area. I’m a middle-aged boring banker.

    Reply to this comment
  21. angel

    09. Sep, 2013

    Hello, I’m 34 years old, and for the last seven years I’ve had pains in my neck and shoulders its gotten a lot worse,I was told when I was 20 had in my back.I have numbness and tingling in my hands arms and legs sometimes my feet, my chiropractor says I’m off balance, hips out of line along with shoulders and neck my shoulders and neck hurt everyday and my lower back feels like it has a catch in it, I’m not sure where to begin with all the different areas hurting at the same time.I have done construction work half my life I thought I had a pinched nerve but I’m not sure have any ideas, also it hurts for me to sit up straight for more than thirty minutes

    Reply to this comment
  22. elaine winstone

    13. Sep, 2013

    i had carpal tunnel surgery on both hands back in june 2013 i have not returned back to work yet because i have some swelling and pain how long do you think before i can return to my job iam a cleaner at private school also this last week iam getting pain in both my shoulders only at night trying to sleep

    Reply to this comment
  23. Jo

    20. Dec, 2013

    I have a co- worker who had surgery on her upper left shoulder. She had surgery a couple of years ago. I would like to know how long will she be in pain. I feel that she is faking the pain, because she was out for workers comp for that.

    Reply to this comment
  24. sherri

    15. Feb, 2014

    This is most interesting
    I broke my neck in 1989
    I now have issues with inflammation and pain from my collar bone down to my fingers, especiallyy wrist which pain is so horrific I want them cut off JS
    I am being treated for RA although x.rays show I don’t have it and my uric acid levels are great so no gout
    Thank you for info

    Reply to this comment
    • Michael

      17. Feb, 2014

      Hi Sherri,
      the odds are very high that symptoms in your finger/wrist are due to your past broken neck.
      glad you found this interesting.
      cheers,
      Michael

      Reply to this comment
  25. JIM

    13. Mar, 2014

    Well here goes a long story. I have driven limousine since 2006. In july,2011 I was required to place a seat, weight appox. 100lbs into the rear of the van. As I lifted the seat I felt a sharp pain in my right shoulder. I informed my employer and went home after my rides that day. It did not improve the next day and I reported to work and informed my employer. I was seen at a E.R. and was told I had probably strained my shoulder. I then was seen by a sports medicine Dr. who stated there was damage to my shoulder. He began P.T. (23 visits) and took x-rays to confirm. The Dr. gave me several shots of cortazone neither of which helped.
    since then MRI’s, EMG’s but nothing confirmed. I began having more pain in my shoulder radiating up to my neck and down my arm. After 3 years The Dr’s have now diagnosed CTS and I have been also diagnosed as having stage 2 diabetes. The insurance company now says that I had a pre-existing problem, DIABETES. And this could not have been caused by the injury nor could the CTS. I am now scheduled to see no less than three Dr’s. to attempt to finally diagnose the problem and how to solve it. Any opinion would be appreciated. The MRI showed A bulg in my neck and CTS and several Dr’s have supported CTS surgery which they believe “COULD” solve the problems, pain in my neck and shoulder……The diabetes is most likely caused by sitting home for the last three years and appears to be lessening with loss of weight per my GP.

    Reply to this comment
  26. Franki

    15. Mar, 2014

    Thank you for your post on CTS. For a number of years I have had the classic CTS tingling symptoms which had become so pronounced at night that on one occasion my whole arm was numb and it took about twenty minutes to return to normal. My Dr (I live in the UK) said it was CTS and nothing could be done. At the time I was affronted since I knew of the wrist operations, but now I am grateful that he didn’t recommend surgery. Over the years I began to wonder if the source was more a neck and shoulder problem than a local wrist one. I am now fairly sure that this is so, and your reference to, ’rounding shoulders and forward head posture’, is extremely relevant as I suffer my worst attacks after a day’s gardening. Now I am more aware of the issue I make sure that after gardening I carry out neck, shoulder and arm exercises and movements. During gardening, I try (currently unsuccessfully) to prevent the damage. But since I have acknowledged the neck and shoulder as being the problem area I have managed to reduce my symptoms considerably. I still get the typical CPS tingling at night after gardening, but it is far less intense and persistent. I hope others can be encouraged by your post.

    Reply to this comment
  27. Kim Owens

    21. Jun, 2014

    For past few months I’ve been having wrist Pain on bottom of my wrist and theres a knot also on my wrist and today my shoulder starting hurting very bad and can only move it backwards just a little before the pain starts

    Reply to this comment
  28. Lisa

    08. Oct, 2014

    I had carpel tunnel surgery on both hands in the past 6 months. Now I have major shoulder pain where it is waking me in the middle of the night. I have a workmans comp doctor and it seems he keeps ignoring my question of what is wrong. Can anyone please help me??

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