Relieve Carpal Tunnel Syndrome with Massage Therapy
Massage Therapy can help with many different disorders, including carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). CTS is characterized by pain in the palm, top of the thumb, all of the pointer and middle fingers, and half of the ring finger. Sometimes the pain travels up the forearm. Sensations may include tingling or shooting pain, weakness of the muscles, and/or numbness in the hand and wrist. The common cause is too much pressure on the nerve in the wrist. When muscles in this area get inflamed – usually from being overworked – it can lead to a buildup of connective tissue. The median nerve then gets trapped between the wrist bones and the broad band of connective tissue over them called the transverse carpal ligament.
One reason for the restriction where the median nerve runs under the connective tissue is that the hand bones may be out of alignment, putting pressure on the nerve. Although a chiropractor would have to realign the bones, a massage therapist can work on the muscles around the carpal bones. This can help relax the muscles, as well as prevent or limit subluxations in the future.
Another reason for a “tight fit” under the transverse carpal ligament is that the connective tissue is sort of like plastic wrap. It is wrapped around every muscle and organ in the body. (Think of when you use plastic wrap and how it can get stuck and be hard to smooth out.) So, when one side of the connective tissue pulls, it can bind a muscle or restrict blood flow, or the connective tissue can accumulate in the area that is injured or stressed. When this happens in your wrist, it puts pressure on the median nerve and causes pain in the hand and wrist. In this scenario, the massage therapist is not going to work on the muscle directly but will work to loosen and smooth out the connective tissue.
Many people with CTS choose to relieve their pain by having surgery during which the doctor cuts the transverse carpal ligament to scrape away the buildup of connective tissue. However, sometimes the area operated on develops scar tissue. Once again, pressure is put on the median nerve resulting in pain. In this case, a massage therapist can warm up the area that has trauma and work on the scar tissue to discourage and/or prevent the build of connective tissue.
Some of the activities most prone to CTS are those involving forceful hand gripping: playing a musical instrument, rock climbing, weight lifting, weeding, sewing, painting, working with tools (e.g. carpenter, mechanic), and writing (with a pen or keyboard). Even if your activities require repetitive motion with your hands doesn’t mean you have or will develop CTS, but you could be affected by related pain patterns in your hand, wrist, forearm, and/or shoulder.