carpalHave you experienced numbness or tingling in your hands, especially at night, or when performing repetitive grasping actions with your hands? You may have experienced some clumsiness in handling objects,  and sometimes feel a pain that goes up the arm to as high as your shoulder?

These may be the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) or as it’s also known, Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is a common and painful problem caused by compression of the median nerve, which travels down the arm and through the carpal tunnel.  The carpal tunnel itself can be described as an arch or  passageway in the wrist through which the nerves and flexor muscles pass into the hands.  This is already a small and tightly packed area, and any inflammation or swelling can cause nerve compression, which in turn causes the symptoms, some of which are listed here:

  • Pain or a burning sensation, numbness, tingling or pinching feeling in the fingers (typically the thumb, index and ring finger), hand and wrist.
  • Weakness in the hand, or decreased grip strength leading to an inability to pick up objects
  • Radiating pain up towards the shoulder

These symptoms often first appear during the night in one or both hands, which some experts believe might be due to people habitually, but unconsciously sleeping with clenched hands.

Certain activities  have been known to exacerbate or lead to CTS:

  • Repetitive tasks, such as using a mouse or keyboard
  • Holding and keeping the hands in awkward positions
  • Frequent strong gripping
  • Vibration, such as the repeated use of vibrating hand tools
  • Any trauma or injury to the wrist resulting in  swelling
  • Fluid retention during pregnancy or menopause
  • Poor posture which leads to muscular imbalance

It’s important to note that the pain could also be coming from  further up the arm, at the point where the brachial plexus (a bunch of nerves that innervate the arms) pass under the clavicle and down the arms.  This is commonly known as  TOS or Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, and is usually a direct result of poor posture and long hours at the desk, leading to muscular imbalance and a forward head posture, and is a whole other post in itself.

The good news is that both these conditions can be treated with remedial massage.  A lot of doctors recommend surgery, which should always be the very last resort.  Common treatments also include the use of anti inflammatories and cortisone injections.

It is worth noting that pain killers will not treat the cause of the problem and could lead to more permanent damage in the long term by masking the symptoms, although for more severe cases, cortisone injections have had great success in many cases.

I believe that working with the body to allow it to heal itself is the way to go.  There are some interesting studies that have shown that remedial massage can not only decrease symptomatic pain, but can also help in increasing strength in the forearm muscles. Click here for the report.  A massage therapist can take the time to work on the surrounding tissues and areas to help work on the cause of the condition, freeing up constricted muscles in the back and neck, before moving on to more specific work through the forearm and carpal tunnel area.

If you suffer from any of the symptoms mentioned here.  The first step is to see a qualified bodyworker, such as a physiotherapist or remedial massage therapist and try out a few treatments to see if it is indeed muscular, this  along with self care techniques and exercises, some postural modification and bit of patience can usually get people out of pain and on the road to recovery.