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Carpal tunnel syndrome, also known as CTS, is a common complaint among people who do repetitive work with their hands. Plumbers, tailors, painters, mechanics, brick layers, computer operators, and authors of articles about natural health all tend to get carpal tunnel syndrome.
The carpal tunnel is a hollow tube of cartilage that protects the nerve that goes from the wrist to the hands. When the tunnel is narrowed, inflamed, or torn, nerve impulses don't reach the hands.
People who have CTS may lose the ability to use their thumbs, or they may lose sensation in their fingers, or they may suffer excruciating pain, especially at night, in the hands and along the carpal tunnel in the forearm.
The medical diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome is hard to make, because most people who have carpal tunnel syndrome don't fit all of the numerical diagnostic criteria for the speed of nerve impulses traveling along the median nerve inside the carpal tunnel. And people who have this condition tend also to have thyroid problems, diabetes, or other chronic health conditions that also affect the nerve. However, all of these conditions that cause nerve damage usually respond to vitamin B6 supplementation.
Taking 200 milligrams of vitamin B6 a day usually does not improve the nerve conduction tests that doctors use to make a diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome. However, taking this high-dose of vitamin B6 usually does improve:
However, just getting vitamin B6 is not enough. It's also important to get other B vitamins, especially B1 (thiamine) and B2 (riboflavin). If you are deficient in other B vitamins, vitamin B6 probably won't help you.
It's also important to avoid vitamin C supplements. In high doses, vitamin C can cause the inflammation the B6 is stopping, in carpal tunnel syndrome (although not in other conditions). And other anti-inflammatory supplements, such as fish oil, really don't hold any special benefit for carpal tunnel syndrome.
Is 200 milligrams a day going to be too much? There are published reports of side effects in people who take 1,000 milligrams of vitamin B6 a day, and to be very sure of avoiding side effects in others, the US Food and Drug Administration has set an upper limit of 100 milligrams for daily use.(Read more about vitamin B6 side effects). To get under this limit, take the activated form of vitamin B6 known as pyridoxal 5-phosphate but be sure you also take a complete B vitamin (all the forms of vitamin B in a single capsule) every day.
What can family physicians offer patients with carpal tunnel syndrome other than surgery? A systematic review of nonsurgical management. Ann Fam Med. 2004 May-Jun;2(3):267-73. Review.
Spooner GR, Desai HB, Angel JF, Reeder BA, Donat JR. Using pyridoxine to treat carpal tunnel syndrome. Randomized control trial. Can Fam Physician. 1993 Oct;39:2122-7.