Massage therapy for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

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Carpal tunnel syndrome, caused by compression of the median nerve within the carpal tunnel, is the most prevalent peripheral nerve entrapment disease, affecting around 5% of the population. Certain risk factors make it more likely that someone might develop carpal tunnel syndrome including repeated and excessive use of the wrist and hand, awkward postures, heavy lifting, and vibrations. These risk factors can be more common in certain jobs, which is why they can be associated with lost productivity at work, and absences from work. The pain and numbness in the wrist and hand that people with carpal tunnel syndrome experience can prevent them from participating in their regular activities. Massage therapy can help people with carpal tunnel syndrome reduce their pain and improve their function.

Massage therapy treatment especially combined with stretching and other types of care, can provide at least short-term pain relief for people with carpal tunnel syndrome. Both surgery and manual therapy have been found to have similar outcomes, with both helping people with carpal tunnel syndrome improve their hand function. Research suggests that as a result, manual therapy can be part of a first line of treatment for people with carpal tunnel syndrome, before or instead of surgery.

Neurodynamic mobilization techniques, which are movement-based interventions that are meant to have a positive impact on the nervous system, have been proposed to improve the neurophysiological functions of the median nerve and reduce symptoms in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome. These techniques have been found to be more effective in helping people with carpal tunnel syndrome reduce their pain and improve their hand function. Various types of manual therapy, including nerve mobilizations and massage, can help people with carpal tunnel syndrome improve their function.

Massage therapists can also recommend exercises that can help people with carpal tunnel syndrome decrease their pain and improve their function. Home exercises, especially when combined with splinting and patient education can help people with carpal tunnel syndrome find some symptom relief and even potentially avoid surgery. Research suggests that a self-myofascial stretching of carpal ligament can be an effective treatment for people with carpal tunnel syndrome for relief of multiple symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome including numbness and tingling.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is often related to activities people perform regularly in their work, and absence from work is common in people with carpal tunnel syndrome. The symptoms of carpal syndrome can keep people from the jobs or other activities they love. They are less able to use the affected area to complete the tasks they were able to complete before. Registered Massage Therapists (RMTs) can offer people with carpal tunnel syndrome a non-surgical effective option to help them find relief from their pain and other symptoms.

References

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Feng, B., Chen, K., Zhu, X. et al. Prevalence and risk factors of self-reported wrist and hand symptoms and clinically confirmed carpal tunnel syndrome among office workers in China: a cross-sectional study. BMC Public Health 21, 57 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-020-10137-1

Fernández-de-Las-Peñas, C., Cleland, J., Palacios-Ceña, M., Fuensalida-Novo, S., Pareja, J.A., Alonso-Blanco, C. (2017). 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. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther.

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Shem K, Wong J, Dirlikov B. Effective self-stretching of carpal ligament for the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome: A double-blinded randomized controlled study. J Hand Ther. 2020 Jul-Sep;33(3):272-280. doi: 10.1016/j.jht.2019.12.002. Epub 2020 May 1. PMID: 32362377.

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