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Derek Golightly - Massage Therapist

Remedial & Sports Massage

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome causes numbness, tingling, pain or burning in the hand. The muscles in your hand can become weak, and it can be difficult to grip things.

The carpal tunnel is a gap though the carpal bones that make up the wrist. It has bones on 3 sides, and these are held across the fourth side (the side of your palm) by a ligament. A number of tendons and the median nerve run through this tunnel from the arm to the hand.

Strictly speaking, carpal tunnel syndrome is where the median nerve becomes inflamed as it passes through the tunnel. This inflammation can be due to adhesions between different tissues in the area. Where this happens, you get pulling between them, and this can cause inflammation. Other possibilities are that the carpal tunnel becomes restricted, or the tendons become swollen. This causes pressure to build up and impinge on the nerve.

Massage can help in three ways. It can:
  • reduce inflammation and hence swelling;
  • break down adhesion between tissues; and
  • stretch (slightly) the transverse carpal ligament.
The medical profession generally seem to think in terms of using splints, steroid injections or surgery. Personally I think you should try massage first. I've had great success with it, and
I'm impressed by how effective even a gentle massage can be. For example, I had a lady pianist as a client. She was worried that she wouldn't be able to play for the local schools' Nativity Plays. She was also worried about having massage because someone-else had worked on her too hard, and had hurt her badly. However, having gained trust in me through other treatments, she broached the subject. So I was very careful and gentle. We were both very pleased with the results! And so were the kids!

Generally, my treatment will consist of gentle rubbing and stretching around the wrists, and some deeper massage and stretching on the muscles in the forearms and hands.

Another Alternative

Sometimes people have pains in their hands and fingers and it is not due to carpal tunnel syndrome. Instead it is due to simple muscle pain - it can be surprisingly difficult to tell the difference. The good news is that this is the easiest problem for a skilled massage therapist to fix.

A Word of Caution

A number of medical conditions can also cause carpal tunnel syndrome. See the section "Causes of carpal tunnel syndrome" on this page for some examples. If you have any suspicion that it could be due to a medical condition other than overwork/overuse, you would be wise to see your doctor.

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