Best Massage Techniques for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Are you feeling weak when gripping objects? Maybe you’re dealing with a swollen or “pins and “needles” feeling in your fingers? Or a burning and tingling sensation in your hands? If you’re repeatedly experiencing these symptoms, you may be suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). If you’ve sought medical attention and have been diagnosed with CTS, there are massage techniques and exercises that help to relieve pain, stiffness, and numbness for your fingers, hands, and wrists.
There are exercises that can be performed safely and effectively at home that may improve outcomes in people with mild to moderate symptoms. Whether you are seeking help from professional massage therapists or practicing self-massage techniques at home, there are treatment methods that can provide long term results. However, it is important to use the right techniques to see the best results.
In this blog, the massage therapist experts at Knead Wellness describe what carpal tunnel syndrome is, the different types of massage therapy, and the different exercises you can try to relieve carpal tunnel pain without medications or surgery. Read on to learn more, but we also strongly advise everyone to take precautions and consult with your doctor or nearest medical professional if symptoms worsen.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is triggered by pressing or squeezing at the wrist, upsetting the median nerve. It’s a neurological disorder that typically causes weakness, tingling sensations or numbness in your hand. Myofascial release is a specific type of massage that is effective in helping treat carpal tunnel syndrome. By performing a series of different movements in the wrist and forearms, the targeted tendons will relax and reduce pressure on the median nerve.
When muscles are stiff and sore, adhesions (tissues stuck-together) are the culprit. As a result, the kneading of tissues is important to break up the tightness. Moreover, additional benefits include pain relief and improvements in range of motion, functional hand use, and grip strength.
Types of Massage for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
We have listed 5 massage techniques with their corresponding benefits and helpful instructions on how you can go about performing each.
- Effleurage – To increase blood flow to the forearm and wrist, perform light circular strokes with the palm of your hand. This also prepares your forearm and wrist for a deeper massage.
- Friction – To break up scar tissue, return lymphatic flow, and reduce edema, with both thumbs, apply pressure to the base of the wrist and then glide the thumbs toward the elbow back and forth several times. With the sustained pressure, this technique is effective at breaking up any adhesions. Knuckles make for an even more intense massage because greater pressure can be applied.
- Petrissage – To boost circulation, improve flexibility, and allow metabolic residues to return to circulation in the arm, simply apply a kneading motion in target areas using the palm of your hand. Start in the upper arm and shoulder, then focus on the fingers and thumb. To help stretch and loosen tight muscles, include movements such as deep squeezing, wringing, kneading, and skin-rolling.
- Shaking – To cool-down from a message or relieve pain while strengthening atonic muscles, gently shake your arm for 30 seconds. Shaking manipulation is best used after other massage techniques and the arm shaking confuses the sensory receptors in your arm so your muscles loosen and relax.
A full myofascial release session incorporates all 5 of these massage techniques. It takes about 15 minutes, repeating the movements in the following order in five sets:
- 30 seconds of effleurage
- 60 seconds of friction
- 30 seconds of petrissage
- 30 seconds of shaking
- 30 seconds of effleurage
Nerve-gliding exercises can be performed at home by simply moving the hand through six positions, holding for 5 seconds between movements.
This type of exercise stretches the nerve and allows it to move more freely. Nerve-gliding should be completed four times a day and before any activity that causes carpal tunnel pain.
Tendon-gliding exercises are executed by moving your hand through five positions, holding for five seconds between each movement. This type of exercise increases the flexibility and range of motion of the tendons of the thumb and fingers.
These tendons need to be stretched in order to relieve the pain from the tightness and inflammation causing the compression of the nearby median nerve. Tendon-gliding should likewise be performed four times a day.
Stretching exercises, specifically the wrist extension exercise, is performed by straightening your arm and lifting your wrist as if signalling someone to “stop.”
Next, gently pull back your palm with your opposite hand until you feel a slight stretch in your forearm. Hold that pressure for 15 seconds, then release and repeat five times. This type of exercise is best utilized after warming up with tendon-gliding and nerve-gliding exercises.
Trigger Point Therapy
Trigger point therapy starts by placing firm pressure on the trigger point with the thumb, maintaining the pressure for 20 to 30 seconds, releasing, then stretching and massaging the surrounding tissues. This exercise can be repeated as needed, but will take around 15 minutes to complete. Trigger point therapy is best performed by a physical therapist because of their ability to locate trigger points.
Trigger points are hypersensitive bands that can transmit pain to other parts of the body. We have them all over, but the ones associated with carpal tunnel syndrome are located on three parts of the arm.
Carpal tunnel massage techniques are a long-term solution, so don’t be discouraged if you aren’t seeing immediate results. By following at-home or massage therapy, you can benefit from increased flexibility, improved grip strength and hand function, pain relief, heightened range of motion, and a speedy recovery. For more information about carpal tunnel massage techniques or to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced physiotherapists, contact Knead Wellness today.