If you ask any sufferers of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, most will agree that this can be quite a nasty and debilitating condition. People who commonly acquire Carpal Tunnel Syndrome typically work in fields which over-use their forearm muscles and wrist: line-work manufacturers, chefs, butchers, sewers, office workers etc. It can also occur during pregnancy due to swelling experienced in the hands and feet.
Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Burning, tingling, itching and numbness in the palm of the hand and fingers.
- Feeling of swollen palms and fingers.
- Decreased grip strength.
- Inability to discern hot and cold.
- Loss of muscle tone in the hand, specifically the thumb.
If one has TRUE Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, the Median Nerve is compressed (usually by swelling, and inflammation) and the sufferer many experience one, if not all of the symptoms listed above. The Median nerve travels through the centre of the wrist and into the hand. It’s responsibilities include moving the muscles on the thumb side of the hand, directing blood flow to the forearm and hand, as well as keeping the brain informed at all times of skin temperature, skin sensations, and muscle tone. In short, we could say it’s the manager of the forearm and arm. When a nerve is compressed we start to experience less sensation. If this continues over days, weeks, months, the nerve itself may stop functioning well. Just like a garden hose, squeeze the tube enough and you block the flow of water. This is the same for nerves.
Notice how I mentioned “true” Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. In the physical therapist world, there are other conditions which can be caused by poor body postures or tight muscles which can mimic closely the symptoms of “true” Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Of course, if you feel any of the symptoms above, you should have “true” Carpal Tunnel Syndrome ruled out. Your physical therapist, whether they be a massage therapist, physiotherapist, osteopath or chiropractor, have insight and experience with these other conditions which have similar symptoms to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and can help you determine if your symptoms are due to poor posture, tight muscles or misaligned skeleton. Your physical therapist will also be able to determine if you should consult a doctor or neurologist to investigate the diagnosis of “true” Carpal Tunnel Syndrome; which can be a serious condition and proper diagnosis is important.
What can a physical therapist do for you?
More specifically a massage therapist? If you do happen to have the posture/muscle related Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, a massage therapist can do many things for you:
- Address tight muscles contributing to the syndrome.
- Relieve pressure (muscular or fluid) around the Median Nerve.
- Work on posture related issues which exacerbate the syndrome.
- Give suggestions on home-care/self-maintenance.
The Median Nerve actually originates from the middle of your neck. Therefore an RMT will assess your upper body posture; specifically the neck, upper chest, collar bones and shoulder joints. We will assess specific muscles which are close to the Median Nerve: muscles in the neck, chest, arm and forearm. RMTs find the areas which are compressing the nerve anywhere between the neck and the hand. A person should expect a massage which could include releasing tension in the neck, upper chest and forearm, depending on where tightness or other issues are found.