Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Explained
You should know that Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, or CTS for short, is a disorder that is characterized by tingling and numbness, along with some other symptoms, in the arm and hand. The disorder is attributed to a pinched nerve located in your wrist.
There are several factors that could cause or contribute to CTS syndrome, following are three of the most common:
- Wrist anatomy
- Hand use patterns
- Health problems
Something you should know is that the CTS is a very narrow passageway that is located on the palm side of your wrist. It is bound by bones and ligaments and protects the main nerve that goes to your hand as well as the nine tendons that bend your fingers. Compression of the nerves in this area results in the numbness, tingling, and eventual weakness that lead to the diagnosis of CTS syndrome.
For most people who develop CTS syndrome, the numbness and tingling can be relieved and normal functioning of their wrist and hand can be restored with the correct treatments.
What are the Common CTS Symptoms?
Usually, you will notice some intermittent tingling and/or numbness in your thumb, index, and middle fingers when CTS first starts out. You may also experience a bit of discomfort in your hand and wrist. The most common symptoms of CTS are as follows:
You will notice numbness/tingling in your fingers and hands. The fingers affected will be your thumb, index, middle, and ring finger. However, note that you will not have this numbness/tingling in your little finger. The sensation will primarily occur when you’re holding something and can cause some disruptions in your sleep. The sensation could also extend from your wrist up your arm. In the beginning, you may be able to shake your hand to relieve symptoms. However, as it gets worse, the numbness/tingling will become more constant.
You may also notice that you have some weakness in the affected hand and be more likely to drop things. This could be due to the numbness or weakness in your thumb muscles, which are controlled by the median nerve.
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms and signs of CTS and your daily activities or sleep patterns are being affected, you should definitely see your doctor. Keep in mind that if you don’t get your CTS treated early, you may have to go through surgery or you could end up with permanent muscle and nerve damage.
Who is at Risk for Developing CT Syndrome?
Individuals at risk for developing CTS include those who work on the computer all day, carpenters, mechanics, gardeners, and cashiers. Additionally, those who have problems with their back, neck, or shoulders are more likely to develop CTS syndrome. Women who are pregnant or going through menopause are much more likely to develop CTS than those who are not.
CTS can happen at any age, but is most common in individuals between the ages of 40-60. Women are much more likely than men to develop carpal tunnel, but men can get it. Additionally, excessive use of tobacco, caffeine, artificial sweeteners, and alcohol also contribute to the development of carpal tunnel. Over half of all pregnant women will have symptoms of carpal tunnel- the condition will resolve itself after childbirth.
Using Massage Therapy to Treat CTS Syndrome
Studies have proven that symptoms of CTS can be reduced with massage therapy. Massage therapy is actually believed to increase energy, support the healing process, ease pain, enhance mood, well-being and relaxation, and to reduce the time it takes to recover following an injury. Massage can help to improve strength and significantly reduce symptoms and pain of CTS syndrome. Additionally, massage therapy can be used to relieve the pain from muscles in the shoulder or arm that mimics the symptoms of CTS syndrome.
How Does Massage Therapy Help CTS Syndrome?
According to studies, massage therapy can ease CTS symptoms and increase grip strength. The massage technique used in the studies consisted of using moderate pressure and stroking from the elbow to the fingertips. Patients reported improvements in their symptoms for at least four weeks following the treatment.
You can ease congestion in your wrist and encourage movement by performing a very simple “wrist-wringing” technique on yourself. To do this, simply clasp one wrist with your other hand and using a circular movement, massage it. Avoid any movements that cause pain and gently exercise your hands and arms to stretch them out.
You may want to consider some professional techniques to relieve the pressure on your nerves from inflamed tendons, as well as get excess fluid out of the wrist area. These professional techniques include: NMT, or Neuromuscular Therapy, and MFR, or Myofascial Release.
Studies have proven that both massage that is CTS targeted, as well as general massage can reduce the symptoms of carpal tunnel. However, you should note that strength of grip was only increased in massage specifically geared to CTS syndrome.
Things to Keep in Mind Regarding CTS Massage
There are several things you must remember when you’re considering using massage to treat your CTS symptoms. First of all, direct manipulation of the nerve is extremely dangerous and can result in other problems. You should rarely apply direct pressure on the carpal tunnel region, and if you do, you must be very careful.
In addition to focusing on the wrist flexors or the carpal tunnel area, you should also pay attention to the upper area of the arm and the neck when using massage to treat CTS syndrome. There are several areas where the median nerve could be compressed, thereby irritating the nerve located at the carpal tunnel.
Massage is basically a very safe way to treat your CTS syndrome. Pain and other negative side effects are extremely rare and are caused by massage techniques that are overly vigorous.