Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common medical condition caused by the compression of the median nerve in the wrist. Symptoms of CTS include tingling, numbness, and weakness in the hand and wrist. It can be caused by a range of conditions from repetitive or over-use of the hands and wrists, to inflammation or injury in the neck and upper body, to pregnancy, to simple genetics creating small wrists bones.
There are many therapies and treatments for CTS including Physical Therapy, strengthening exercises, ice and heat treatments, and surgery. Many people who suffer from CTS have found relief through massage therapy. Massage therapy can help by targeting the muscles in the wrist and forearm, all the way up to the neck. The massage techniques used can increase flexibility, and reduce muscle tension. This can help reduce the pressure on the median nerve, which is often the cause of CTS symptoms. It also helps relieve inflammation and help increase circulation which can help relieve the nerve irritation by allowing bad stuff like inflammation and scar tissue to move out while good stuff like healing, oxygenated blood come in.
In addition to targeting the wrist and forearm muscles, massage can also help reduce stress and tension that can contribute to CTS. Stress causes people to tense up their muscles, which can increase the pressure on the median nerve and worsen CTS symptoms. Also when the body is stressed, a common place to hold stress and tension is in the neck and shoulders. Since the nerves for the hands and forearms originate in the neck, and run through the shoulders, tension in these areas can also contribute to pain in the hands and wrists. Massage helps to relax the not only the hands and wrists, but the neck, shoulders, and overall whole body and reduce tension and stress levels, therefore reducing the symptoms of CTS.
Since many therapies for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome involve wrist flexibility and strengthening exercises, Massage is also a great complimentary therapy in that it increases mobility. It can help loosen the muscles in the wrist and arm, helping them to move more freely and easily, which can reduce pain and stiffness and make the therapy exercises more effective. Massage can overall improve range of motion and flexibility, which can help reduce the risk of further injury. Finally, massage can also simply provide relief from pain. Massage helps to relax muscles and increase circulation, which can help to reduce pain and inflammation. It can also help to reduce swelling, which with the improved range of motion, can further reduce pain.
Overall, massage therapy can be an effective treatment for people with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. It can help to reduce the pressure on the median nerve, reduce stress, increase mobility, and reduce pain and inflammation. It is wonderful as a stand-alone treatment for the pain in the wrists and hands, but more effective as a part of other therapies and exercises. As with all medical conditions, one should consult with a doctor to determine if the wrist and hand pain is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and depending on the severity, one or more treatments may be recommended to work together to help relieve the pain.
Thoughts from the therapist:
Carpal Tunnel is the bane of my profession's existence. However, that being said (and I hope I'm not jinxing myself with this statement), I am the only member of my family who has not had diagnosed and/or surgically repaired carpal tunnel issues. My mother was an organist, my brothers work with computers, my father is in construction, and my sister does intense fine-motor work with her hands. Part of our family's issues are genetics in that we all have small wrists, and we all overuse our hands. One of the big differences between me and my family is that I do receive regular care and treatments from the awesome Applied Kinesiology Chiropractor I work with, plus I've known that getting into this profession, I needed to be proactive with preventative care. I stretch and massage my arms regularly, take care of my neck, and wear compression gloves to sleep. I'm not saying I haven't had ANY carpal tunnel issues in my close to 20-year career, and I probably will have it sooner rather than later, but through preventative regular care, as well as the combination of multiple types of therapies and treatments, I have been able to delay the inevitable.