Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: the bane of every office worker and overworked musician around the globe. But what is it, and how can one be so sure that their wrist and hand discomfort is carpal tunnel syndrome?
The “carpal tunnel” in the name refers to the area in the wrist where the median nerve—which enables your hand to move and feel sensation—and your hand muscles run together in a big cable-like grouping. If overused the muscles can squeeze the median nerve, which causes pain and numbness in the middle, ring, and pinky fingers. This numbness is one of the things doctors look for when diagnosing CTS. You can also experience tingling in your hand if you have carpal tunnel, especially at night.
There are other conditions that mimic CTS that could cause similar discomfort. If the numbness presents on the forearm as well as the hand, it could be something called Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, where there is pressure on your shoulder's brachial nerve. Both CTS and Thoracic Outlet Syndrome can be attributed to overuse or repetitive strain of the muscles in your arm.
The good news, is that massage therapy can be an effective tool in both treating and preventing carpal tunnel syndrome. Your therapist can use stretches and other techniques during your session to relieve pain and tension in your hands, restoring much needed circulation to your arms. Here at Massage Williamsburg we use White Flower Oil on inflamed muscles to help ease pressure on the sensitive nerves in your arm. And valuable advice from your massage therapist can aid you in managing CTS—and show you ways to prevent it from happening.
As always, if you think you have CTS, or any other condition involving numbness and pain, consult your health care professional. And if you can't go right away, here are some things to try to soothe your injury in the meantime.
- Use heat to relax tight muscles that may be putting pressure on the nerves in your arm.
- If you use a computer everyday, make sure your hands are in neutral position—not flexed up nor down. Keep your shoulders away from your ears, too.
- Try this stretch: Turn your outstretched hand palm up, placing your other hand across the fingers. Pull the stretching hand down and back towards you. This opens up the carpal tunnel! Switch hands and repeat.