Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a medical condition due to compression of the median nerve as it travels through the wrist at the carpal tunnel. The main symptoms are pain, numbness, and tingling, in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and the thumb side of the ring fingers.
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when a combination of health conditions and activities puts pressure on the median nerve as it passes through the carpal tunnel in your wrist. This pressure leads to symptoms. Anything that decreases the amount of space in the carpal tunnel, increases the amount of tissue in the tunnel, or increases the sensitivity of the median nerve can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
Things that help cause carpal tunnel syndrome include:
- Conditions or illnesses that can cause or contribute to arm pain or be swelling in the joints and soft tissues in the arm, or to reduced blood flow to the hands. These include obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, diabetes, lupus, and hypothyroidism.
- Repeated hand and wrist movements. They can cause the membranes surrounding the tendons to swell (tenosynovitis).
- Broken wrist bones, dislocated bones, new bone growth from healing bones, or bone spurs. These can take up space in the carpal tunnel and put more pressure on the median nerve.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common work-related condition. It can be caused by work that requires:
- Forceful or repetitive hand movements.
- Hand-arm vibration.
- Working for long periods in the same or awkward positions.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is even more likely if you have these work-related issues along with other health conditions.
Mild carpal tunnel symptoms most often affect the hand and sometimes the forearm, but they can spread up to the shoulder. Symptoms include:
- Numbness or pain in your hand, forearm, or wrist that awakens you at night. (Shaking or moving your fingers may ease this numbness and pain.)
- Occasional tingling, numbness, “pins-and-needles” sensation, or pain. The feeling is similar to your hand “falling asleep.”
- Numbness or pain that gets worse while you are using your hand or wrist. You are most likely to feel it when you grip an object with your hand or bend (flex) your wrist.
- Occasional aching pain in your forearm between your elbow and wrist.
- Stiffness in your fingers when you get up in the morning.
With moderate or severe carpal tunnel symptoms, you may have numbness or reduced strength and grip in your fingers, thumb, or hand. It may be hard to:
- Do simple hand movements, such as brushing your hair or holding a fork. You may accidentally drop objects.
- Pinch an object between your thumb and first finger. (This is called a loss of pinch strength.)
- Use your thumb while doing simple tasks such as opening a jar or using a screwdriver. With long-term carpal tunnel syndrome, the thumb muscles can get smaller and weaker (atrophy).
Symptoms most often occur in parts of the hand supplied by the median nerve: the thumb, the index finger, the middle finger, and half of the ring finger. The median nerve doesn’t affect your little finger. So if your little finger is affected, you may not have carpal tunnel syndrome.
Symptoms often occur in both hands, but they are usually worse in one hand than the other. You may first notice symptoms at night. People with carpal tunnel syndrome can usually fall asleep, but pain or numbness may wake them up.
Not all pain in the wrist or hand is caused by carpal tunnel syndrome. There are many other conditions with similar symptoms, such as:
- An injury to the muscles, ligaments, tendons, or bones.
- Nerve problems in the fingers, elbow, or neck.
- Arthritis in the thumb joint or wrist.
Benefits of Massage and Acupuncture for Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS)
Massaging Therapy for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Apply light pressure to the muscles in your shoulder, arm, wrist, and hand. Start your massage using light strokes and avoiding too much pressure (a technique called effleurage). Start from the shoulder and move down the arm to the small muscles in your wrist and fingers.
What do you do if your doctor tells you that you have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)? While highly effective, massage for Carpal Tunnel is often not brought up by conventional doctors. Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome include numbness, tingling, and pain in the hand and fingers as well as pain that can radiate up the forearm. The pain is caused by constant pressure on the median nerve – the main nerve to the hand. The pressure most often results from swelling or thickening of the wrist tendons due to repetitive wrist movements. Poor office ergonomics, turning a wrench or using tools all day, playing an instrument, or sleeping in an awkward position can cause or exacerbate Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
Traditional treatments recommended by MDs for Carpal Tunnel have been anti-inflammatory or steroidal medication and splinting the wrist to limit movement. While splinting helps the patient avoid lying awkwardly on the wrists while sleeping, it can actually cause additional swelling during the day, as he or she goes about performing normal daily activities. The medications can have side effects and only last as long as they are taken regularly.
Also, very commonly, patients undergo surgery to sever the swollen carpal ligament, thereby creating space for the median nerve so it is not being constantly compressed. Unfortunately, surgery isn’t the magic bullet for the relief of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome symptoms either – after surgery, some still feel pain, tingling, and numbness. Sometimes, even a successful surgery does not last and once the patient goes back to the work or the hobby they used to enjoy, the condition eventually returns.
An alternative not always considered is massage. Many patients have had success using massage for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and are often able to rid themselves of the condition altogether. Massage helps relieve Carpal Tunnel Syndrome symptoms by breaking down scar tissue and adhesions in the muscles of the wrist and forearm, caused by trauma or overuse. Restoring the affecting muscles to full elasticity allows the wrist to move more freely, as it is supposed to, easing friction on the inflamed areas. Massaging and stretching the tendons and ligaments of the wrist directly further aids recovery by relieving the pressure these tendons and ligaments are putting on the Median nerve that is causing the pain and tingling.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome symptoms will not disappear after one massage treatment but they can improve significantly and continue to improve with further treatment. Massage therapists can also teach you specific stretches of the hands and forearms to relieve Carpal Tunnel Syndrome symptoms and help you remain symptom-free.
If you suspect you may have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or another medical condition or are currently being treated for CTS, please consult your physician before beginning any new treatment.
Further Reading for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
*Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider.
Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.
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