Carpal tunnel is something I have seen quite a lot at the clinic most recently and within office massage. Most clients explain they have experienced tightness in the shoulders and pain, tingling and numbness radiating down the arm.

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

The carpal tunnel is the tunnel in the wrist through which the wrist tendons and median nerve travels. Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is where the median nerve becomes compressed at the wrist and doesn’t function properly.

The median nerve travels from the brachial plexus, a network of nerves around the neck and upper spine that supplies the arm.

Carpel Tunnel

What causes it?

There are many possible causes, but it commonly develops in women due to a smaller carpal tunnel.  It is also very common in pregnancy because of fluid retention at the wrist.

CTS can be aggravated by changes in posture and small repetitive movements. These repetitive movements at the wrist (such as typing, and intricate work) need good range of movement and stability within the shoulder and neck joint. If you are tensing your shoulders as you are working this will change the tension of the tissues along the muscles from the shoulder to the hand.  This tension will have an impact on the the thickness of the tendons that pass through the tunnel thus reducing the space and affecting the movements of the hand

Other issues that may affect CTS are hypothyroidism and arthritis.

What are the treatments?

There are many treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome along a spectrum of massage and exercise to steroid injections and surgery.

From a massage and movement perspective, it is important that your shoulders and arms move well before you follow the surgery route as restriction in movements can aggravate the problem. Movement is a less aggressive fix than surgery!

If you are feeling restricted and tight within the shoulders, build in some strategies to help relax as this can also affect CTS.

What many people opt for is the surgical route to treat carpal tunnel syndrome, but it may not be the 100% cure of symptoms and pain around the carpal tunnel area.

A study by Fernández-de-Las Peñas C, et al found that surgery and physical manual therapy had a similar effect in medium and long term effects of pain reduction and function, and in another study they found that surgery and manual therapy had similar effectiveness for improving self-reported function and severity of symptoms.

So in a nutshell, manual therapy and surgery have similar effectiveness. But one is a lot less invasive!

Here are some simple tips to help ease carpal tunnel pain before you head for surgical intervention

  1. Massage and soft tissue work: Booking a massage and therapy appointment to find out what is going on with your posture at the moment. We can look at the range of movement in your whole body and ease up muscle tension, relax the nervous system to support you to moving better.
  1. Nerve stretch: This stretch can sometimes feel too intense, to ease this up keep your head facing forwards.

3. Self-massage for your forearm

3. Self-massage for your forearm

If you are experiencing this, please click on the link below now to arrange a consultation call and we can get started on helping you move and feel better.

I wrote this blog on the Restore Health & Wellbeing website previously and updated it in this blog.

  1. Osterman, M (2012). Carpal Tunnel in pregnancy Orthopedic clinic North America 43(4):515-20.
  2. Shiri, R (2014). Hypothyroidism and carpal tunnel syndrome: a meta-analysis.Muscle nerve 50 (6): 879–83 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25204641

Manual Physical Therapy Versus Surgery for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: A Randomized Parallel-Group Trial.

Randomized controlled trial

Fernández-de-Las Peñas C, et al. J Pain. 2015.

↓ Full text

The Effectiveness of Manual Therapy Versus Surgery on Self-reported Function, Cervical Range of Motion, and Pinch Grip Force in Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: A Randomized Clinical Trial.

Randomized controlled trial

Fernández-de-Las-Peñas C, et al. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2017.

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