Carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a common condition that affects the hand and wrist. Here’s a comprehensive overview:

Definition: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist. This can lead to numbness, tingling, and weakness in the hand and fingers.

Anatomy: The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway located on the palm side of the wrist. This tunnel protects the median nerve and the tendons that bend the fingers. If there’s any swelling or a change in the position of the tissues surrounding the median nerve, it can get compressed, leading to CTS.


  • Repetitive hand movements, especially if the wrist is bent in such a way that makes the carpal tunnel narrow.
  • Wrist fractures or sprains.
  • Medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and thyroid gland imbalance.
  • Fluid retention, such as during pregnancy.
  • Overactivity of the pituitary gland.
  • Cysts or tumors in the canal.


  • Tingling or numbness, especially in the thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers.
  • Pain in the wrist or hand, sometimes radiating up the arm.
  • Weakness in the hand, leading to dropping objects.
  • Symptoms may be worse at night or upon waking up.


  • Physical examination, checking for tenderness, swelling, or any deformity.
  • Nerve conduction studies, which can detect if electrical impulses are slowed as they pass through the carpal tunnel.
  • Electromyograms, to check for damage to the muscles controlled by the median nerve.
  • Ultrasound or MRI, to get a visual of the carpal tunnel.


  1. Non-surgical treatments:
    1. Wrist splints to keep the wrist straight, especially at night.
    1. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen to reduce pain and swelling.
    1. Changes in hand activity patterns or ergonomic corrections.
    1. Physical therapy and hand exercises.
    1. Corticosteroids, either in pill form or directly injected into the wrist, to reduce inflammation.
  2. Surgical treatments: If non-surgical treatments don’t help or if the condition has become severe, surgery might be recommended. The most common surgery is carpal tunnel release, where the ligament around the wrist is cut to reduce pressure on the median nerve.


  • Taking frequent breaks if performing repetitive hand movements.
  • Ensuring the hands are in a neutral wrist position during activities.
  • Using ergonomic equipment and proper hand positioning.
  • Strengthening exercises for the wrist and hand.

Prognosis: Most people with CTS get relief with the appropriate treatment. However, if left untreated, it can lead to permanent nerve damage and worsening symptoms.

As with any medical condition, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and tailored treatment recommendations.

Massage for carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a condition where there is increased pressure on the median nerve as it passes through the carpal tunnel of the wrist. This pressure can lead to symptoms such as numbness, tingling, weakness, or pain in the hand and fingers. Swedish massage and deep tissue massage are among the therapies that some people consider as adjuncts to medical treatments for CTS. Here’s how each type of massage may help:

  • Swedish Massage:
    • Purpose: Swedish massage aims to promote relaxation and increase circulation.
    • Technique: It uses a combination of long gliding strokes, kneading, friction, tapping, and gently stretching.
    • Benefits for CTS:
      • Increases blood flow to the affected region which can help to decrease pain and inflammation.
      • Reduces muscle tension which might indirectly help to decrease the pressure within the carpal tunnel.
      • Promotes relaxation, which can reduce muscle spasm and associated pain.
  • Deep Tissue Massage:
    • Purpose: As the name suggests, deep tissue massage targets the deeper layers of muscles and connective tissues.
    • Technique: Slow strokes and deep finger pressure are used to release chronic patterns of tension.
    • Benefits for CTS:
      • Targets and releases tight fascial structures and muscles which might be compressing the median nerve or contributing to the tension in the wrist.
      • Helps in breaking down scar tissue which can be a contributor to nerve compression.
      • Can aid in relieving trigger points in forearm muscles which can sometimes mimic CTS symptoms or contribute to them.


  • Efficacy: While some individuals report relief from CTS symptoms after massage therapy, scientific evidence on its efficacy specifically for CTS is limited. It’s important to remember that the benefits of massage may vary from person to person.
  • Consultation: Before beginning massage therapy for CTS, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional, especially if the condition is severe or if there are other underlying health issues.
  • Massage Pressure: The massage therapist should be informed about the condition and any pain or discomfort during the session. Overly aggressive techniques could potentially exacerbate symptoms.
  • Other Treatments: Massage can be used as an adjunct to other treatments for CTS, such as splinting, physical therapy, or even surgical interventions, depending on the severity of the condition.

Lastly, it’s essential to find a qualified massage therapist trained in addressing issues like carpal tunnel syndrome. Regular sessions, combined with stretching exercises and other recommended treatments, can offer the best chance of relief.

By Michael Caine

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