Hand Massage for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is irritation of the median nerve as it passes into the wrist. It can have several different causes. Symptoms include pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness in the part of the hand supplied by the median nerve. CTS may respond well to massage therapy depending on the underlying factors.

Someone is receiving a hand massage. (Image: simarik/iStock/Getty Images)

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

The carpal tunnel is the passageway from the wrist to the hand, and is made of tendons, ligaments and bones. Carpal tunnel syndrome, or CTS for short, results from an inflammation of the tendons and other structures as they pass through the carpal tunnel of the wrist (the space between the carpal bones of the wrist and the transverse carpal ligament), which ultimately leads to compression and irritation of the median nerve.

In addition to the symptoms in the part of the hand supplied by the median nerve (thumb, index and middle fingers, and palm of the hand), pain may also radiate up the forearm.

Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The most common cause of CTS is repeated wrist flexion; simply put, our bodies were not designed to perform the same movements over and over again on a daily basis. In an attempt to keep up with the demands the body adapts wherever it is used most, causing growth and inflammation. Long term growth and inflammation can cause chronic irritation to tendons or ligaments. Other common causes of CTS include: edema (fluid retention), subluxation (partial dislocation) or direct trauma to the wrist.

Is Massage Therapy Appropriate?

It is important to get a diagnosis from a doctor before attempting to treat this problem because several other disorders can cause similar problems.

Depending on the underlying factors, CTS may respond well to massage. According to a recent study conducted by the staff at the Touch Research Institutes at the University of Miami School of Medicine in Miami, Florida, "Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms are lessened and grip strength increased following massage therapy." Massage should be performed on and around the wrist. If symptoms worsen, massage should stop immediately.

Massage Therapy for CTS

Massage for carpal tunnel syndrome would include manual therapy of the forearm and hand, where a massage therapist would work on the flexors/extensors of the hand, wrist, and fingers. A clinical treatment of this kind would include massage techniques such as compression, stripping, cross-fiber friction, trigger point and passive stretching.

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