Carpal Tunnel Syndrome & Massage

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful and uncomfortable condition that affects millions of people. Many sufferers will turn to surgery to try to relieve the pain, but surgery always comes with risk. And wrist splinting isn’t super effective either. Prescription pain medications can help, but can also have unwanted side effects. So, what else can be done?

What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by the median nerve in the wrist being inflamed or pinched as it passes through the wrist. This usually happens from repetitive work over a long amount of time, such as typing, labour work, playing an instrument, or any other repetitive action using your wrist. Carpal tunnel syndrome can also develop because of genetics or diseases, such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.

The repetitive motion causes tendons in the wrist to thicken or swell, which in turn press against the median nerve. Because this is the main nerve to the hand, symptoms can be extremely pronounced.

What are the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome?

The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include:

  • Numbness, tingling, and pain in your hand, thumb, and wrist
  • Radiating pain in your forearm
  • Difficulty grasping and holding things
  • Weakness

Sleeping positions can make the symptoms worse and the pain can interrupt your sleep. The symptoms can also become worse throughout the day, usually becoming more severe in the evening after you have been using your hands for many hours.

Typical tingling and numbness patterns will show up on the thumb side of the hand – thumb, index finger, middle finger and part of the ring finger.

How does massage help with carpal tunnel syndrome? 

A massage specifically designed to help with carpal tunnel syndrome addresses the muscles and connective tissues from your neck down your arm to your hand. This lengthens the muscles and connective tissues, which can help relieve symptoms.

The massage therapist will also target trigger points and tension in the soft tissue of your shoulder, arm, wrist, and hand. This can help soften the strain of scar tissue in your muscles, allowing them to work at their best. This allows your wrist to move more freely which reduces pressure on the medial nerve.

Does it hurt to have carpal tunnel syndrome massaged? 

Like any therapeutic massage, there can be a bit of discomfort during treatment. It should never be unbearable or too painful. Make sure you talk to your massage therapist about what feels good and what doesn’t. Following your massage, you could have some post-massage soreness, redness, or a bit of swelling. Be sure to listen to your post-treatment care recommendations. Ice may be recommended. 

The massage is meant to relieve symptoms and reduce pain, not cause more of it. If post treatment soreness continues for longer than 2-3 days following treatment, don’t be afraid to let the therapist know and give our office a call for advice.

How many massage treatments are recommended? 

Many people experience relief after just the first session, but the symptoms come back quickly. Massage therapists recommend 4-6 x 60-90 minute sessions to achieve long term relief. The severity of your symptoms will play a part in determining how many sessions you will need.

Keep in mind that relief from the symptoms doesn’t always mean you have been cured. You should continue to consult your doctor to monitor symptoms. Many massage therapists recommend receiving carpal tunnel massages in addition to whatever treatment you have been prescribed by your doctor (ie: Physiotherapy).

What can I do at home to help my carpal tunnel syndrome?

It is possible for you to give yourself a carpal tunnel massage. There are many videos on YouTube, like this one, that show you how to do it. 

You can also use a wrist splint to help relieve symptoms. This method isn’t super effective, especially when doing the activities that caused your carpal tunnel syndrome in the first place. However, using a splint while you are sleeping or relaxing at home has been proven to be very helpful in reducing or managing symptoms. 

Using a cold compress can help reduce inflammation and swelling. Taking more frequent breaks when using your wrist can help as well. You could take more breaks and apply a cold compress during these breaks.

You can also take pain relief medications, like Tylenol or Ibuprofen, to ease the pain on recommendation by your physician. 

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a very painful and very frustrating condition, but you CAN find relief!

Carpal tunnel massages can help reduce the inflammation that causes the symptoms, often more effectively than other treatments. You can also take steps at home to help reduce your pain. If you think you have carpal tunnel syndrome, you should talk to your doctor about it to find the best treatment options for you. Relief is possible!

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