Massage for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Brianna Clark
October 29, 2015

The Wrist That Cried Carpal Tunnel

It’s true… typing at a keyboard or performing any repetitive task involving the hand and wrist all day can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. But before you consider surgery, consider the full picture of this neuropathic condition. There could be more to your pain than meets the eye.

Characteristics of Carpal Tunnel

Numbness and tingling in the palm of the hand, weakness, and pain in the wrist and hands are all associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. These issues arise when the median nerve is compressed as it passes through the carpal tunnel of the wrist. That is true carpal tunnel but let’s take a closer look at what other conditions would produce the same symptoms.

Other Conditions That Mimic Carpal Tunnel

Nerve entrapment due to tight forearm muscles can mimic CPS. Where ever a nerve is pinched, symptoms can be relayed along the entire path of that nerve. If the nerve is caught up in the forearm it can easily be cleared up with a few sessions of forearm stripping to get the muscles to release their pressure on the nerve. I recommend always trying this approach as a first means of treatment before considering surgery.

Another pathology to consider is thoracic outlet syndrome. The same symptoms can present themselves such as numbness, weakness and pain in the wrist and hands. With this condition, the nerve causing the issue is actually being impinged in the neck region. This is common among people who consistently hold the phone between their ear and shoulder, lift weights or hold any other repetitive posture. Your wrist pain may be accompanied by some discomfort in the neck or shoulder of the same side. This would require the release of different muscles than CTS or nerve entrapment along the forearm. It is a treatable condition and well worth considering massage therapy as part of your treatment plan.

medical picture illustrating where carpal tunnel occurs in the hand

The Path to Recovery

Make sure you are incorporating proper ergonomics, posture and break times for your body while doing repetitive physical activities. Postural analysis, stretching and strengthening, as well as immobilization of wrists, massage therapy are all-natural and affordable alternatives to try before jumping the gun and getting surgery. A consistent 30-60 minutes session once a week will be needed initially until symptoms subside, it is important to stretch your wrists and keep the muscles strengthened. Here is a suggested daily regimen for the hands:

At-Home Protocol for Healing Carpal Tunnel:

For the Hand and Wrist

  1. Hold your left hand up, palm facing outward. Using your right hand, pull the fingers back toward your wrist until you feel a stretch, and hold that position for 5 seconds. Repeat the stretch on your right hand.
  2. Press the palms of your hands together at chest height. Lower them towards your lap until you feel the stretch in your wrists. Hold for 5 seconds.
  3. Spread your fingers wide for 5 seconds.
  4. On your left hand, gently pull the thumb back toward your wrist until you feel the stretch. Hold it for 5 seconds, and then repeat the move on your right hand.
  5. Curl your fingers into a fist: Start with your pinky finger, and gradually fold the remaining four fingers into a fist. Then curl your wrists inward until you feel the stretch, and hold it for 5 seconds.
  6. Massage the inside and outside of each hand, and then gently shake them out.
  7. Hold your left hand up, palm facing outward. Using your right hand, pull the fingers back toward your wrist until you feel a stretch, and hold that position for 5 seconds. Repeat the stretch on your right hand.
  8. Press the palms of your hands together at chest height. Lower them towards your lap until you feel the stretch in your wrists. Hold for 5 seconds.
  9. Spread your fingers wide for 5 seconds.
  10. On your left hand, gently pull the thumb back toward your wrist until you feel the stretch. Hold it for 5 seconds, and then repeat the move on your right hand.
  11. Curl your fingers into a fist: Start with your pinky finger, and gradually fold the remaining four fingers into a fist. Then curl your wrists inward until you feel the stretch, and hold it for 5 seconds.
  12. Massage the inside and outside of each hand, and then gently shake them out.

For the Neck and Shoulders

  1. Stretch the neck in full extension, then full flexion, to each side. Hold each stretch for at least 15 seconds.
  2. Clasp hands behind the back. Try to touch the palms of the hands together as you squeeze your shoulder blades together and open up the chest.
  3. In a standing position, hold something weighing roughly 5 pounds in one hand. Let your body subtly bend at the hips to that same side. Stretch your neck to the opposite side. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Preventative measures are necessary to reduce your risk of carpal tunnel syndrome, thoracic outlet syndrome or any other neuropathy when you spend hours a day on the computer or doing another repetitive task requiring fine motor function of the fingers and wrists.

Massage therapy can relieve symptoms of and tight forearm muscles and TOS that masquerade as carpal tunnel syndrome. Give it a try!

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