In the 2 1/2 years that I have been a Licensed Massage Therapist, I have been approached by several people seeking out help with Carpel Tunnel Syndrome and Sciatica. I decided to write this blog because these are 2 very common conditions that occur in the body, and can cause tremendous amounts of pain. The majority of people who do come to me with these ailments have been told by their doctors that they need surgery to correct the problem. This article will help you understand that more often than not, surgery is not the answer and can actually make these conditions worse. Lets first define Carpel Tunnel Syndrome and Sciatica for those of you who are not familiar with it.
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So what is the Carpel Tunnel and where is it? The Carpel Tunnel is the passageway on the Palmar side of the wrist that connects the forearm to the meaty part of the palm and consists of bones and connective tissue. Several tendons pass through this tunnel along with a nerve (called our Median Nerve) which is the nerve that supplies feeling and movement to parts of the hand. The illustration below gives you a visual as to what the tunnel looks like.
Therefore, CARPEL TUNNEL SYNDROME is simply nerve entrapment of this Median Nerve. The Median Nerve becomes compressed via inflammation of the Flexor tendons, which are located on the Ventral side of the forearm (flexors are exposed when palm and wrist are facing up.) As you also see in the picture to your right, is the Transverse Carpal Ligament which makes up the ceiling of the carpel tunnel. This ligament is a strong, fibrous band that arches over your wrist and through which your Flexor tendons and Median Nerve pass. Now that you understand the anatomy of this area, lets delve deeper into the causes of Carpel Tunnel Syndrome.
As before mentioned, the Flexor tendons become inflamed and then compress onto the Median Nerve. So how does this inflammation occur? Anything requiring a person to use repetitive movements with their hands, wrists and arms will cause this inflammatory response. Below are some of the most common causes of Carpel Tunnel that I have seen in my practice:
- Repetitive typing (many of my Salt Lake City, Utah massage clients who have desk jobs complain of Carpel Tunnel Pain)
- Overuse in sports (rock climbing, tennis, raquetball, weight-lifting)
- Construction work
- Housekeeping work
- Any repetitive gripping actions
Most commonly, people feel the effects of this nerve impingement on the thumb side of their hand. This makes sense because of how often we use our thumbs every day. Here are the most common symptoms of Carpel Tunnel Syndrome:
- Numbness/Tingling in the wrist, palm, first 3 digits, and forearm
- Dull, deep ache
- Sharp, shooting pain
- Weakness in grip
If you are feeling any of these symptoms, you may have Carpel Tunnel Syndrome. But before my clients decide to get surgery, I strongly advise them to try therapeutic massage instead. When muscles and tendons become inflamed from overuse and begin to put pressure on that Median Nerve, massage can be extremely effective in relieving the inflammation. During Carpel Tunnel Surgery, the physician will actually go in and cut the Transverse Carpel Ligament to take the pressure off of the Median Nerve. To me, that seems to further damage the area and I have seen many clients come out of surgery in even more pain than before. Sometimes the surgery does work of course, but more often than not, I have found that it doesn’t do much at all, or can even make it worse.
So before making the decision to get the surgery, I would recommend just trying out a bodywork session. I have had amazing results in my experience and have had many of my Salt Lake City, Utah massage clients tell me that their Carpel Tunnel pain completely dissipated within just a few months or even sessions. Call today to schedule a massage and see if bodywork is a better solution for you.