Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms are becoming more and more common. Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by the median nerve being entrapped in the carpal tunnel, because of swelling or inflammation of the finger flexor tendons (the muscles and tendons used to flex the fingers). At the wrist the flexor tendons run through a tunnel made up of the bones of the hand and a “roof” made of ligament and fibrous tissues. When the flexors swell, they press upon the nerve, effectively trapping it and causing tingling, pain, burning and numbness in the hand.
The symptoms can also be caused by trigger points as far away as in the shoulders due to overuse or wrong use of different muscles. Syndrome and symptoms are caused by extensive or wrong use of the finger flexors, arms, shoulders or even poor postures and working conditions. This includes work with the computer, mouse and keyboard, though all repetitive finger and arm movements can be the cause. Knitting and massage are two good examples.
It’s important to pay attention to the strain you place on your body. Notice if the forearm starts to become tense and strained, if there’s soreness or noticeable tiredness in your wrists. It might be a sign of a beginning problem and should be treated quickly. There’s a lot you can do yourself to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome.
First make sure you have good and proper working conditions that support a healthy posture. The forearms should rest comfortably on the desk at an angle of 90 degrees at the elbows. Make sure your shoulders and neck are relaxed as you work at the computer. For some a pillow in front of the keyboard, ergonomic keyboard and mouse, proper screen position as well as a good chair can help avoid most of the problems.
Regularly get up and walk around. Stretch your entire body at least hourly, loosening the muscles in shoulder and neck, stretching your fingers and wrists, rolling your shoulders and head and get a break for of a couple of mininutes. It’s also important to stretch the chest muscles regularly so they don’t become chronically shortened as discussed in my previous article about computer work and posture.
Limit your work in front of the computer. This is of course much easier said and done for many people since much of modern work depends on computers. One thing that you can do is to avoid using laptops more than in emergency situations. Limit the laptop use to an hour a day max. They provide for very poor working conditions and if you find it necessary to work extensively on one, make sure you get an external keyboard, mouse and screen and sit at a table working instead of lying in bed or on the sofa.
Make sure your muscles are stretched and exercised regularly, that you’re fit physically and doing some strength training and receive a regular massage to normalize the muscles and avoid the build up of chronic tension and stress.
If you begin to feel tingling, numbness and continuous pain in your wrist, forearm and hand, consult your doctor or a massage therapist for diagnosis and treatment. While many doctors will direct patients with carpal tunnel syndrome to surgery, massage can better the condition in most cases. The sooner the pains and problems are addressed, the easier it is to treat and heal. Trigger point therapy has proven a reliable treatment in situations where the symptoms show, but aren’t caused by swelling or inflammation in the carpal tunnel.
Massage can help with carpal tunnel syndrome on several levels. It can relax open the carpal tunnel so the pressure on the nerve is lessened, as well as treating the the flexors which have been strained and are tight. If there is an inflammation, it’s important to get that treated before commencing any massage work. Often when people get surgery to treat the syndrome, the symptoms will only be temporarily eased as the root of the cause hasn’t been removed; in particular working postures, conditions and repetitive movements.
If you feel strain and soreness when booking a massage appointment, make sure to tell the therapist so she can include treatment and/or preventive work in the routine. She will also be able to give you advice and tips on how to counter and avoid a problem from arising.