Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a “common peripheral entrapment that causes neuralgia in the median nerve distribution of the hand.” Wait, what?
Translated from “medi-speak”. The carpal tunnel is an archway of bones in your wrists. When your palm is face-up, the bony arch is upside down. Across the open end of the arch, a thick band of connective tissue (flexor retinaculum) crosses to close off the arch and forms a “tunnel”. This tunnel is the way for tendons in your forearm to control muscles in your hand. There’s also a median nerve that supplies nerve function to some of the muscles at the base of your thumb and first two fingers.
In CTS, the soft tissues within the carpal tunnel get inflamed and thicken. This usually happens because of trauma or overuse (like typing on your computer at work for years, or working as a baker kneading dough or working on an assembly line). The muscles of the forearm then start to shorten and thicken from overuse, and they get inflamed too. All this inflamation causes the tendons in the carpal tunnel to swell up and squeeze the median nerve, causing numbness, nerve pain (aka neuralgia) or both.
It is estimated that about 5% of women and 3% of men suffer from CTS.
Conventional treatment for CTS ranges from wrist splints (immobilization of the area may make the swelling go down), to surgery (cutting the flexor retinaculum to create space and ease the pressure on the nerve) or massage therapy.
Surgery should be a last resort. Proper massage therapy (aka “manual therapy”) can actively address the issues by softening and lengthening the forearm muscles and fascia, working down from the elbow and forearm into the wrist and hand. As these structures soften and lengthen, the inflammation is able to recede, and the pain and numbness go away. This is by far the least invasive, most effective, cost-efficient way to deal with CTS.
Find a therapist trained to help you with carpal tunnel syndrome (or it’s sister injury called thoracic outlet syndrome).