Location and Definition
Your carpal tunnel, a narrow passageway located on the anterior wrist, is comprised of tendons, nerves, ligaments, and fine bones. The median nerve, one of the major nerves in the body, runs through this passageway. Repeated or excessive use of this nerve can cause inflammation, which results in carpal tunnel syndrome; this can be very painful to the point of debilitation.
Causes of Carpal Tunnel
Carpal tunnel is usually the result of a repetitive motion which can be exacerbated by the presence of other diseases or by genetic factors. Diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes can factor into the onset of carpal tunnel syndrome, as can a small bone structure or a genetic predisposition to the disease. Actions that involve excessive flexion and extension of the wrist contribute to this condition more so than other types of physical activity.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Symptoms of carpal tunnel include pain in the hand and fingers, which can sometimes extend upwards through the arm to the elbow. Numbness and tingling of the hand, fingers, and lower arm are classic symptoms as is the inability to hold an object. Pain is sometimes worse in the evening and can interrupt sleep. This is not to say that these symptoms definitively indicate carpal tunnel syndrome, but they can be a good indicator. In order to be properly assessed, and before beginning treatment for this painful issue, the advice of a medical professional should be obtained.
Massage and Carpal Tunnel
Those who are afflicted with carpal tunnel syndrome, especially with a medical diagnosis of it, can benefit from massage therapy. At the initial session, frank answers to questions about health history and symptoms will enable the massage therapist to provide the best therapeutic session. Particularly for those who haven’t obtained a medical diagnosis of carpal tunnel, tests such as Tinel’s, which can indicate the presence of irritated nerves, or Phalen’s, which tests for carpal tunnel issues, can assist the therapist in determining whether carpal tunnel syndrome is present or whether it’s another issue, such as tendinitis.
In addition to these two tests for the presence of carpal tunnel syndrome, evaluations of nerve compression in other areas, such as the cervical and shoulder areas, can help determine both the presence and severity of this issue. Forthright answers to questions about daily tasks and habits, especially when they involve repetitive hand and wrist motions are invaluable in helping the massage therapist to ascertain the appropriate treatment protocol. Information that should also be provided is the history of previous onsets of carpal tunnel and the treatments, if any, that were provided.
Massage treatment protocol will most likely include several sessions before the issue is resolved. Carpal tunnel syndrome didn’t just suddenly appear in the wrist, it was the culmination of a long period of repetitive and unrelieved use. Therefore, complete relief will probably not be forthcoming in a single session. Rather, a series of sessions will be required and the massage therapist will need input on the progress that’s been made. Input can come in the form of the difference in pain level during the day and how it has affected the sleep cycle. Information on the ability to hold objects without dropping them, flexibility of the fingers and wrist, and changes in the condition of the neck and shoulder areas will also help the therapist to determine the efficacy of the treatment.
The more information the massage therapist receives about the condition, the better the treatment he or she will be able to provide. Treatment of carpal tunnel can include adjustments in treatment pressure, different types of stretches, post-treatment soreness or discomfort, preferences on types of oil, and any other issue directly related to the condition being treated. For a demonstration of some of the techniques used, click here.
Although the treatment regimen will be centered on the carpal tunnel issue, other areas of the body may be addressed as well. In all probability, if the median nerve has issues, other nerves and tissues in the body may be similarly out of balance. In order to obtain the most effective treatment for the carpal tunnel issue, all areas that are misaligned need to be treated. This can involve deep tissue work, myofascial release, stripping, compression, stretching, and rotation, among others.
Since each body is different, the treatment protocol for each individual will be different but overnight success is an unrealistic expectation. Those with carpal tunnel syndrome should expect to spend several sessions with the massage therapist in order to receive optimal success with this issue. The longer the issue has been present, the longer it may take to achieve resolution.
Resolution of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
If your massage therapist has helped resolve your carpal tunnel issue, be sure to let others know; treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome requires patience, skill, and knowledge. It’s a painful condition that can be debilitating if left untreated so be sure not to ignore its presence. As with any health issue, ignoring it can cause issues with other areas of the body so prompt attention to the early signs will yield the best outcome in the least amount of time.