Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a condition that occurs when the canal that protects the tendons and the median nerve in the wrist becomes smaller. This is usually due to muscle tightness, misalignment from wrist fractures or even due to swelling and inflammation from repetitive motion like typing, driving and massage therapy. This condition can also come with distressing symptoms such as numbness in the hand or fingers, a burning sensation and even tingling or weakness.

The 3 ways of treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:

Massage therapy

Proper massage therapy – carpal tunnel syndrome massage – will address the issue at the source by softening and lengthening the forearm muscles and fascia, working down from the elbow and forearm into the wrist and hand. As these structures soften and lengthen, the inflammation is able to recede, and with it the pain and numbness go away. This is by far the most effective, cost-efficient, and non-invasive way to deal with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Wrist splints

Immobilisation at the wrist does ease some pressure on the tendons by preventing the tendons from becoming either over stretched or over contracted. Typically this is the “wait and see” approach to see if the swelling/inflammation will go down on its own (or with the assistance of drugs). This is ineffective since it does not do anything to soften up and lengthen the irritated muscles and tendons which are the source of the problem.

Surgery

Usually the flexor retinaculum (the connective tissue thickening that keeps the tendons and the median nerve in the carpal tunnel) is either cut completely, or cut such that it expands like an accordion. The idea here is to create some additional space so that pressure is taken off the nerve, and general inflammation can decrease. Carpal tunnel surgery has mixed results, often with recurrence of symptoms in a reasonably short period of time. Again, the source of the problem (the thickened inflamed muscles and tendons) have not been addressed. This may account for the recurrence of symptoms, but it is also a strong possibility that the whole situation has been misdiagnosed… read on!

Unfortunately, many people are misdiagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome when they actually have Thoracic Outlet Syndrome!

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome is a similar case of nerve entrapment with symptoms of numbness, tingling, or pain in the forearm, wrist, or hand, but the nerve is trapped higher up in the neck and/or shoulder. Make sure that whoever you seek treatment from is aware of both conditions and has the ability to diagnose and treat both.

In addition to whichever treatment protocol you choose, you should also be aware that the majority of cases in both carpal tunnel syndrome and thoracic outlet syndrome are caused by:

  • Overuse
  • Poor posture or positioning
  • A combination of both of the above.

Because our behaviour, posture, and positioning of our bodies are usually the cause of both Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and thoracic outlet syndrome, it only makes sense to modify our behaviors to prevent future issues. Your therapist should be able to give you some helpful suggestions in this regard.