The month of October is upon us and I am reminded of a certain tradition we did as kids.  Carving pumpkins was a fun way to express our creativity.  We had our pumpkin carving kit that came with a tool that really didn’t work as well as we thought. There was a point where my mom had to step in and help us and it really was a struggle and quite painful for the wrist. If you are a parent or just simply like to carve pumpkins for decoration, suffering with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can definitely deter you from this common tradition.

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is the inflammation or entrapment of the median nerve within the carpal Tunnel of the wrist. The symptoms include numbness and tingling in the hand, difficulty grasping or carrying objects, and sometimes hand pain. The pain can be worse in the evening, therefore making it difficult to sleep.

What causes CTS?

The most common cause for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is repetitive motion. It’s often considered a repetitive strain or overuse injury but genetics and disease can play a factor as well. Some people genetically have smaller Carpal tunnels therefore easier to be compressed. Diabetes and Rheumatoid Arthritis can also cause problems with the carpal Tunnel.

Treatment for Carpal Tunnel

When you get diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, your doctor will most likely give you a list of options for relief.  Some of those options may be difficult if your job requires hours in front of a computer typing. Changing your work habits can be key when suffering with CTS.  They may recommend getting a wrist splint or even as going so far as recommending surgery. Here are some alarming facts about CTS surgery:

  • Carpal Tunnel Surgery has about a 57% failure rate following patients from 1-day to 6 years. At least one of the following symptoms re-occurred during this time: Pain, numbness, and tingling.(Nancollas, et al, 1995 J. Hand Surgery.)
  • Only 23% of all Carpal Tunnel Syndrome patients returned to their previous professions following surgery, according to The Bureau of Labor & Statistics and The National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health(1997-2000 Statistics).

There are other drawbacks when considering surgery which are:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Injury to the median nerve or nerves that branch out from it
  • Injuries to nearby blood vessels
  • A sensitive scar
  • Expensive, cost ranging from $5,000 or more.

Massage as a Alternative Treatment.

Massage is a less invasive way that can help relieve Carpal Tunnel symptoms by breaking down scar tissue and adhesions in the muscles of the wrist and forearm, caused by trauma or overuse.  Typically people suffering with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome will show signs of internal rotation of the shoulder and arm.  The nerve that supplies the sensation in the Carpal Tunnel originates in the neck and shoulder area. It’s important to release tension along the entire pathway. The Massage Therapist will use deep tissue and trigger point techniques in the shoulder, neck, full arm, and hand as well as myofascial release through stripping and compression. Massage will help release the pectoral and subscapularis muscles in order to release the medial rotation of the shoulder. A client should feel some relief after a 60 minute session. If symptoms worsen, massage should stop immediately.

Is it Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

As a Massage Therapist, when a client comes in to see me with wrist issues, they will automatically self diagnose their condition as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.  There is another condition that has the same symptoms as CTS and it’s called Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. The nerve impingement is actually in the neck and or the shoulder region. It is important to see a doctor so the Massage Therapist can focus on the correct impingement site.

How can I prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

  • There are things we can do to prevent CTS. Here is a list of preventative measures we can take:
  • Getting regular massages to help break up scar tissue and adhesions that can cause nerve impingement.
  • Keep forearms level when typing
  • Wear a wrist brace at work or even during sleep to avoid straining the wrist
  • Self massage forearms, wrists, and hands
  • Avoid slouching. It puts stress on shoulders and neck, affecting the wrist and hands