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Self Care Between Massages

Stretches for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
by Bret Bailey, LMT

Tip #4 - February, 2010

Here are a number of stretches and ideas that may offer you some relief, between massages, if you're experiencing early symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.

The carpal tunnel is a narrow passage on the palm-side of your wrist through which numerous tendons pass on their way to the hand. Along with tendons, this "tunnel" is also shared by the median nerve which, from time to time, can become irritated. This is usually the result of pressure on the nerve from further narrowing of the carpal tunnel, or from inflammation of the surrounding tendons.

As for who gets carpal tunnel syndrome and who doesn't, recent studies show that women are three times more likely to develop the syndrome than men, and like almost everywhere else in life, genetics plays a large role. So, if your brother has it, or your mother has it, there's a pretty good chance, genetically speaking, that you'll also have a smaller carpal tunnel, and therefor be more prone to entrapment of the median nerve.

In addition to heredity and sex, there are other likely causes, such as a trauma or injury to the wrist, improper posture, repetitive, forceful activities, and even sleeping on your flexed hand.

One early symptom of carpal tunnel syndrome is a general aching in the wrist which can travel to the hand and forearm. Many times this will be followed by numbness, pain, tingling or weakness in your hand. It may even be felt as a radiating pain that travels up to your shoulders. More likely, though, you'll feel the symptoms in your thumb and index finger, and possibly even in your middle finger, and half of the ring finger.

Now, before we go further, I want to stress the importance of making an appointment with a doctor if you experience the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome for more than a few months. Also, if you experience any sharp or severe pain while doing a stretch, please be sure to stop immediately, and consult a physician.

That said, here are a number of very simple things you can do for yourself, between massages, that may prevent or alleviate the symptoms.

1) Take frequent breaks form receptive or forceful activities involving the wrist.

2) Keep your wrist in a neutral position, basically extending straight out in the line of the forearm.

3) Wear a splint while performing causal activities, or while sleeping.

4) Be award of posture and ergonomics when working. Keep your shoulders back, and place your keyboard at elbow level, or slightly lower.


1) Stretching the forearm flexors

Extend your arm out in front of you with palm up, and point your fingers downward.
With the other hand, gently pull those fingers gently towards you.
Hold for 30 seconds.
Repeat 2-3 times each day, to each arm.

2) Median nerve gliding (nerve flossing)

Extend your arm out to one side, level with the floor, and extend the palm back.
Turn your head to the same side.
Next, at the same time, flex the palm, pointing the fingers forward, and turn your head to the opposite side.
Follow by simultaneously extending the hand back again, and turning your head to the right.
As your move your hand and head, imagine a string gliding back and forth through your muscle tissue.
Repeat this 5 to 7 times.

3) Spanning your fingers

Extend your arms out in front of you.
Open your fingers, spreading them out as wide as possible.
Relax them.
Repeat 5 times.

As always, be very gentle during stretches, elongating muscles just to the point where you feel a stretch.

You may also find relief by trying Yoga and Tai Qi or Qi Gong!

A note on Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Some symptoms of carpal tunnel are similar to those of thoracic outlet syndrome: tingling and numbness in your hands, etc. Therefore, I'm including two more stretches that may help.

1) Pec Stretches

Can be done standing or sitting.
Keeping shoulders down, extend one arm out parallel to the floor.
Place your forearm against a wall or door-frame.
Gently stretch by turning your torso in the opposite direction until you feel a slight stretch in your chest.
Hold for 30 seconds.
Repeat 2-3 times throughout the day.

2) Anterior Scalene Stretches

Sit up straight in your chair.
Reach both arms down to sides and take hold of chair (this will keep your shoulders from moving).
Turn your head to the shoulder opposite your symptoms.
Gently tilt your head back until you feel a slight stretch.
Hold for 30 seconds.
Repeat 2-3 times a day.

Thanks for joining me this month.

I hope this tip will bring you some relief, between massages, and until your next visit.

Be Well,

Bret Bailey, LMT


Please feel free to contact me with any comments, questions, or suggestions- just click here.


Self Care Between Massages - Archive

Tip #1, 11/09- Easing Back Tension With A Tennis Ball

Tip #2, 12/09 - Easing Holiday Tensions With An Epsom Salt Bath

Tip #3, 1/10 - Hot Towel Wrap to Ease Neck Strain

Tip #4, 2/10 - Stretches for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Tip #5, 3/10 - Relieving and Preventing Springtime Neck Strain

Tip #6, 4/10 - Hello Core Strength, Goodbye Lower Back Pain

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