Carpal Tunnel Syndrome plagues those who work with computers or jobs that involve repetitive motion. The numb fingers, tingling, & weakness in the hand are common signs of CTS. Causes of CTS are repetitive use of the wrist, direct trauma, & some structural abnormalities (carpal tunnel is narrower than average). CTS occurs most often in people 30 to 60 years of age & is more common in women than in men.
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is the result of compression of the median nerve within the carpal tunnel. The carpal tunnel is formed by the transverse carpal ligament as it connects to carpal bones on the anterior wrist. The tendons of some wrist flexors & the median nerve pass through this tunnel into the hand. Because the tunnel is inflexible, it cannot accommodate swelling, which causes compression of its contents. The lifetime risk for CTS is approximately 10% of the adult population. Some conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis & the fluid retention often experienced during pregnancy, can cause CTS. In some cases, the cause is unidentified.
Symptoms of CTS include pain & paresthesia in the anterolateral side of the affected hand & fingers. The person often experiences muscle weakness & weak grip. Atrophy is seen in severe or chronic cases.
Initial treatment choices are the use of a wrist brace/splint to stabilize the area & ergonomic devices such as special keyboards & cushioned mouse pads. Nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs & corticosteroid injections help reduce swelling & inflammation. Analgesics are used to decrease pain. In some cases surgery is needed to release the compressed nerve.
Massage Therapy and CTS –
Massage the forearm muscles & muscles in the palm of the hand, within the client’s tolerance. Stretching of the anterior & posterior forearm muscles may also be helpful. Massage improved grip strength (1, 2). Massage combined with trigger point therapy decreased symptoms & improved function (3). Daily self-massage combined with weekly massage from a clinician decreased pain, anxiety, & depression as well as improved nerve conduction velocity (1).
Articles and Journals Referenced:
- Field, T., Diego, M., Cullen, C., Hartshorn, K., Gruskin, A., Hernandez-Reif, M. Sunshine, W. (2004). Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms are lessened following massage therapy. J Bodywork Mov Ther. 8(1):9–14
- Moraska, A., Chandler, C., Edmiston-Schaetzel, A., Franklin, G., Calenda, E.L., Enebo, B. (2008). Comparison of a targeted and general massage protocol on strength, function, and symptoms associated with carpal tunnel syndrome: A randomized pilot study. J Altern Complement Med. 14(3):259-67.
- Elliott, R., Burkett B. (2013). Massage therapy as an effective treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 17(3):332-8.
Susan Salvo is a board certified massage therapist with 30+ years of experience. Susan is passionate about massage therapy and massage education. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.