Massage- A Wonder Therapy for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)

“Massage has had a positive effect on every medical condition we’ve looked at.” These words from Tiffany Field, Director at Touch Research Institute, University of Miami; explains how wonderful massage therapy can be. It is true that massage therapy has proved real beneficial in treating various pain and ill health conditions. Among such conditions is the carpal tunnel syndrome or the CTS; which is known to have reduced symptoms of pain by massage therapy. This current article will focus on how massage therapy can be a wonder therapy for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or CTS.

Benefits of Massage in Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

An Introduction on Massage Therapy:

“Massage makes thing better in your body, mind and soul!” Massage therapy is very much relaxing and can enhance a better health of an individual. Massage involves working and acting on the body with pressure gifted manually or through mechanical aids which can either be structured, unstructured, moving or stationary tension, motion or vibration; and this actually promotes relaxation and well being of the body and mind.

In alternative medicine, the Massage therapy can be a type of bodywork, which make use of touch therapy and hands, fingers, knees, elbows, forearm, feet etc are primarily used for massaging the body with pressure. A massage device can also be used to apply the pressure on the required portion so as to provide better relief from the pain or other symptoms.

A Brief Note on Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS):

Carpal tunnel is actually the passage running from the forearm to the palm of the hand via the wrist. This is a narrow canal, about the width as the thumb and comprises of nine tendons along with one nerve. In case of the carpal tunnel syndrome, there is usually a compression of the median nerve that leads to inflammation and causes pain and numbness in and around the region. Apart from this, the carpal tunnel can also be caused when the median nerve is entrapped in any other location other than its usual place. Usually the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome or CTS occur on the thumb side of the palm; though it can occur all throughout the region carpal tunnel passes across. Numbness, tingling in the hand, difficulty in carrying objects or problematic grasping, hand pain etc., are some of the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome or CTS, which also sometimes leads to interrupted sleep. There are various reasons which causes carpal tunnel syndrome; one of which can be working in front of computer for a longer period of the day. Though carpal tunnel syndrome is considered to be caused due to repetitive strain or injury due to overuse; genetics and disease processes like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. can also lead to such a syndrome in many people.

Massage Therapy- A Wonder Therapy for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS):

“Massage is not only a science but also an art”. Massage therapy is considered to be a wonderful therapy for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or CTS as it brings a great relief from various symptoms like pain, numbness, improper grasping etc and helps improve the condition in many individual who undergo this form of alternative therapy. Though, the surgery can bring permanent solutions to the carpal tunnel syndrome; however in case you do not have a serious condition carpal tunnel syndrome or CTS and want a less invasive method or want to go for an alternative treatment, you can try out massage therapy by a professional therapist. Massage therapy can be a magical solution in carpal tunnel syndrome when done along with stretches and few strengthening exercises. Here we will talk about how massage therapy actually works in improving the conditions in carpal tunnel syndrome or CTS.

If we look at how the whole thing of healing via massage therapy goes on; massage actually aids in improving or preventing the seriousness of the Carpal tunnel syndrome by promoting the blood circulation, which in turn aids in reducing the inflammation and helps in removing the metabolic residues and soothing the irritated or painful muscles and tendons in the carpal tunnel.

In Carpal tunnel syndrome, it is essential to massage the flexor muscles and stretch them out, followed by immediate strengthening exercises on the extensor muscles extending the fingers, elbow and wrist and also the abductor muscles of the fingers. By doing so, the muscle imbalance that caused due to repetitive strain or overuse injuries which leads to the CTS; can be corrected in a natural manner.

Massage therapist uses long strokes going up the flexor muscles that are present on the forearm and also make use of various motion exercises for the wrist which helps in loosening the compressed median nerve and aids in alleviating the pain in carpal tunnel. Apart from this, the therapist also adds stretching of the forearm flexors by extension of the hand, wrist, fingers and elbow, and massaging the entire arm with long gliding strokes at the same time.

Thus; the various treatments your massage therapist does on your carpal tunnel can be listed as below.

  1. Myofascial Stretching to Ease Carpal Tunnel Syndrome- Myofascial stretching provides relief in case there is no severe nerve compression in the carpal tunnel syndrome. Myofascia is actually the connective tissue and the muscles of the body which provides shape and texture to the body and also connects one part to another part of the body and provide the power of mobility. The elasticity of the myofascia helps in doing so. However, with repeated overuse and strain in CTS; the elasticity reduces and thus generates the pain and inflammation. A soft tissue myofascial massage and stretching can provide enough relief from the symptoms. The stretching is helpful when applied over the flexor retinaculum (a transverse carpal ligament arching over the carpal bone in the hand).
  2. Massage For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Flexor Work On Wrist And Fingers- Your massage therapist will work on the flexor muscles present on the fingers and the wrist to provide you better relief in Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or CTS. In case you have severe symptoms, the therapist must start with gentle works on the flexor muscles.
  3. Stripping and Compression Massage for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Relief- Stripping and compression are the broadening methods used on the forearm flexors by the therapist so as to regain the optimum muscle tonicity in those deep tissues. The stripping and compression are usually done on longitudinal way. Using a thumb and striping the thumb up the forearm aids in working on the flexor muscles of the finger. The massage therapist also works by placing a static pressure on the wrist flexor muscle while your wrist is flexed.
  4. Massage for CTS: Pronator Teres Muscle Work- It is not always the compression of median nerve that causes carpal tunnel but also because it is entrapped in another location like the pronator teres muscle. So, massaging this pronator teres muscle can provide relief in carpal tunnel syndrome. Here, a static pressure is applied to the pronator teres muscles with the help of the thumb, while twisting or turning the wrist.

Hot Stone Massage Therapy for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS):

Hot stone massage therapy is a massage therapy, which make use of a hot stone in its treatment. Hot stone massage therapy benefits in reducing the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in a more effective manner. This proves effective because under the direct heat of stones along with the professional massage done by an expert therapist, the muscle relaxes in a better way. Here the massage reaches deeper layers of the muscles. The heated stones expand the blood vessels and also encourage the flow of blood not only in the hands, but also throughout the body and thus relieve the chronic pain and inflammation caused due to overuse injuries in carpal tunnel and also benefits the overall health.

How To Do Massage Therapy for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome at Home?

Are you willing to know about the steps for doing massage therapy at home to reduce the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome? Well! Your massage therapist would explain about these once you visit him or her for treatment or consultation. However, here below we have tried to explain some of the simplest ways for doing massage in carpal tunnel.

  1. Start The Therapy for CTS By a Light Massage: The massage therapy must start and end with a light massage of the muscles in your shoulder, arms, wrist, fingers and hand.

    • Starting from your shoulders, apply light and gentle strokes and move down till the wrist and the fingers in your hand. Make sure not to apply hard pressure.
      Use your palm, thumb and finger for massaging.
    • You can make use of any massage oil here.
    • Do this for about half a minute and allow the muscles to get prepared for a deeper pressure friction massage in the next step.
  2. A Deeper Pressure Friction Massage to Get Relief From Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Friction technique assists in relieving pain by accelerating the return flow of the venous and lymphatic drainage. So, you need to go for a deeper pressure friction massage next.

    • Here you need to go for long, gliding strokes with the help of your thumb. This applies a deeper pressure.
    • You can start the massage from the wrist portion at the wrist center by pushing into the muscle and sliding up the elbow.
    • Then, return back down the upper arm, in to the elbow, forearm and the wrist.
    • Using light and gentle pressure and stretches massage your fingers and palm.
    • Friction massage requires to be done at least for one minute on each muscle to relive the pain and get relaxation.
  3. A Kneading Massage for Relief From Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: “You need to knead you.” In order to improve the muscle tonicity and elasticity and reduce the symptoms in carpal tunnel syndrome, a kneading massage is essential.

    • Using your palm, do the kneading massage on your shoulders, arms, wrists, hand etc, so as to knead the muscles present in these areas.
    • Do this for at least half a minute on each muscle.
  4. A Shaking Massage to Improve Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or CTS: Shaking massage is one more way you can improve the condition in CTS. This massage provides a tension or pressure of vibration to the muscle and helps in relieving the pain and numbness.

    • Here you are to make use of the side of your hand to strike gently on the muscles, by extending your fingers.
    • This shaking massage is also to be done for half a minute.
  5. Light Massage to End The Therapy For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: A light massage at the start and the end relaxes the muscles and calms the nerves. So, it is again essential to do a light massage, at least for half a minute before ending the complete massaging session of one hand.

    • Repeat all the steps in the similar manner with the other hand.
    • You may sometime require 5 to 10 such massage sessions and sometimes in case of mild symptoms in carpal tunnel, you may have relief even from the pain in one session.
    • Make sure to visit a professional therapist or a healthcare provider in case the symptoms persist for long.

Stretches for Carpal Tunnel To Be Followed Up After Massage Therapy:

As mentioned before that stretches can enhance the effectiveness of the massage therapy for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. So, here below we will take a look on some of the stretching exercises you can do at home for carpal tunnel syndrome.

  1. Stretching Wrist Flexor Muscles and Forearm To Get Relief From Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or CTS:

    • For doing this, you first need to bring your arms right in front of you, keeping your palm facing up.
    • In this position, bring one hand down so that your fingers of the hand on which you are working upon; faces towards the floor.
    • Hold this stretch for at least half a minute and then repeat the same with the other hand.
  2. Stretching Wrist Extensor Muscles and Forearm to Help Relieve Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:

    • This is similar to that of the previous stretch mentioned above. However, here you need to extend your arms by bringing your palm/hand down.
    • This stretch is also required to be done for half a minute in each hand.
  3. Tendon Gliding Stretches for CTS:

    Tendon gliding stretch is also essential to relieve you from the symptoms of carpal tunnel. Below are the steps you need to follow for doing this stretch.

    • Start the stretch by keeping your fingers straight up.
    • Now, bend the finger tips and try to touch the palm lightly if possible.
    • Next, move your fingers so as to make a half closed fist.
    • Then bend the fingers straight forward to make a fist by keeping the thumb underneath the fingers.
    • Finally make a complete fist by releasing the thumb out and allowing it to lie relaxed on the side.
    • Repeat the steps in both the hands for having a tendon gliding stretch in your hands.


So here were some of the effective massage and stretches for relieving the symptoms in Carpal tunnel syndrome. Pain is uncertain and can encounter you any time. In case you feel the pain of a CTS, till you go for a visit to the doctor try out the massages and stretches in the appropriate manner and getting some relief in the condition. However, it is always advised to consult a massage therapist or a healthcare professional in case of serious pain or loss of grip in carpal tunnel.

“Massage can be much more than just working on muscles.” Make that Ow transform to Wow with the massage therapy and heal you from the symptoms of Carpal tunnel syndrome naturally with this wonderful therapy.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:January 29, 2019

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