East Bay Massage: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Physical demands at work have changed over time as positions become more and more specialized. With the aide of computers and other technological advances, fewer movements are necessary to complete tasks as compared to just a generation ago. The incidence of carpal tunnel syndrome increased 300% between 1982 and 1992 (those numbers are pretty old– I wonder what they are now, in 2011??). And women are three times as likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome. Whoa!

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve which innervates the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of the ring finger becomes impinged. Symptoms include tingling, burning, shooting pain, numbness, and weakness as the median nerve is unable to carry messages to the area. If left unchecked, carpal tunnel syndrome can lead to permanent nerve damage, which causes loss of muscle function and numbness in the hand. Yikes!

Massage can help to eleveate the symptoms and causes of carpal tunnel syndrome. If the root cause of the nerve impingement is due to edema (or swelling) in the hand, massage can help to encourage fluids to drain back into the forearm. Occasionally, the carpal tunnel bones (small bones at the wrist that in fact create a small channel through which the nerve and tendons travel) get out of whack. While a massage therapist is not trained in chiropractic extremity adjustments, the bones often find their own way back into place if the tissues are properly attended to. Hypertrophy, or the enlargement of a structure due to overuse, is the most common cause of carpal tunnel syndrome. In this case, the tendons of the wrist may enlarge with overuse, irritating other surrounding structures passing through the carpal tunnel, like the median nerve. Massage in this instance may help in reducing inflammation of these surrounding structures.

It is important to also note that the wrist is part of a larger picture– the human body in its totality. Oftentimes, carpal tunnel syndrome-like symptoms can be related to neck, shoulder, or pectoral issues or nerve impingement elsewhere in the arm. A massage therapist will address the body as a whole. In this way, other possible contributing conditions will be accounted for.

If you think you may have carpal tunnel syndrome, check with your doctor, then get in for a massage right away! Massage can help to reduce symptoms and may help you avoid surgery for the condition.

I’m getting off this computer right now! Thank you, wrists!

Thank *you* for visiting East Bay Massage!

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