Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: What you can do about it

Pain, tingling, or numbness in your hand and fingers, specifically the thumb, index, and middle fingers are symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. CTS is a fairly common problem resulting from pressure on the median nerve by the transverse carpal ligament, a broad band of tissue that wraps around the wrist. This compression is most often the result of repetitive movements of the wrist and fingers such as typing, assembly line work, sewing, etc. Doctors will confirm a diagnosis of CTS with a nerve conductivity test. What appears to be CTS symptoms can also be sign of other conditions such as hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes.

While we most often associate this pain, tingling, or numbness in the wrist and hand as an obvious sign of compression of the median nerve in the wrist, i.e. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, it’s important to also rule out other possible causes, including nerve compression at the neck, shoulder, or upper arm.

The median nerve that goes to the wrist is a branch of a much larger nerve coming from the spinal cord. So, while passing around and through the numerous structures on the way to the fingers, it can become compressed at any point, resulting in the same symptoms as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. This is why it’s so important to get a proper diagnosis so the real cause of the symptoms can be treated effectively.

Once CTS has been diagnosed, there are a number of modifications in your daily routines that can help take pressure off the nerve and ease your symptoms and prevent future issues.

  • Avoid keeping your wrists in the same position for more than 30 minutes at a time.
  • Avoid slouching, as it strains the neck and shoulders affecting your wrists and hands.
  • Stretch your pectoral muscles several times a day by grasping your wrists behind your back and holding for 30-60 seconds.
  •  Do deep shoulder shrugs by bringing your shoulders to your ears and back down in circular motions.
  • Don’t let one hand overcompensate for the other, use them evenly.
  • Maintain the correct posture while sitting at your desk.
  • Use a support under the wrist when typing or using a mouse to Keep your forearms level with the keyboard while typing.
  • Avoid bending your wrists or performing repetitive motions for long periods of time.
  • Wearing a wrist splint while typing can ensure that your wrists remain in a neutral position and relieve pressure on your median nerve.
  • Getting regular monthly massages can help to treat neck and shoulder pain and will reduce the strain you put on your wrists at work.

Swelling is a big culprit in Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. The pressure on the nerve creates inflammation, resulting in swelling that only adds to that pressure. We recommend icing the inflamed area 15 minutes, 3 times a day. Oftentimes, just getting the swelling under control can take enough pressure off the nerve to let the healing process take place and ease the symptoms greatly.

If modification in your daily habits and icing aren’t quite doing the trick, your doctor may recommend anti-inflammatory medications, or even steroid shots in severe cases, to reduce the swelling. After that the next step is often a recommendation for physical therapy to begin a regimen of exercises and stretches. As a last resort, surgery will cut the transverse carpal ligament to allow more room for the median nerve to pass through without pressure.

Massage therapy for carpal tunnel is the most non-invasive, cost-efficient and effective long term treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Massage therapy addresses the inflammation, pain and numbness by softening and lengthening the muscles and fascia of the neck, shoulder, upper arm, elbow, forearm, wrist and hand.

Many clients experience carpal tunnel relief after the first session, however for long term relief it will generally take 4 to 6 sessions. This will depend on the severity and length of time of symptoms. It should be noted that feeling relief of your symptoms does not mean that the condition has been completely cured so be sure to continue consulting with your medical doctor.

While Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a fairly common condition, that doesn’t mean you have to suffer with it. Body & Soul Massage offers 30 minute pain relief packages and monthly massage memberships. Call 978-825-0040 or email info@bodysoulsalem.com to learn more.