Carpal Tunnel & Tennis Elbow

Massage and stretching can help heal carpal tunnel

Wrist Pain & Related Injuries

To understand where the carpal tunnel is, look at your wrist with the palm of your hand facing up; as you flex your wrist toward yourself, the area beneath the wrinkles is the carpal tunnel. Through this tunnel are blood vessels, nerves and tendons. Tendons are the outer wrappings of muscle; as the skin of a hot dog twists at the end of the dog, the tendons connect the muscles to the bones.

When you have surgery, the surgeon cuts the protective tissue covering this area allowing the vessels, nerves and tendons more room. The success rate is not too good (depending on where you find your statistics) and often a second surgery is necessary.

Now for the good news: you might not need surgery. The main reason the carpal tunnel becomes crowded is that the muscles become painfully tight due to overuse (possibly brought on by repetitive motion), which causes the tendons to be come inflamed (tendonitis). Once the tendons become swollen, the nerves and blood vessels become crowded and you experience weakness, pain and other discomfort. Massage correctly applied can relax (release) the affected muscle(s), which reduces the swelling of the tendons and solves the problem without drugs or surgery. Make sure a physician diagnoses the problem, not a friend. On occasion, a pinched nerve in the neck or tight muscles in the shoulder can cause symptoms similar to CTS (Carpal Tunnel Syndrome). Most often tight muscles are involved, and massage can help.

Tennis Elbow

Tennis Elbow is a designation for lateral or medial epicondylitis, which can be caused by repetitive, forceful motion. Golf, tennis, turning a screwdriver, or using a hammer can cause intense pain. Most physicians recommend stopping what you're doing, and sometimes prescribe anti-inflammatory medications. Another prescription is cortisone injected directly into the inflamed joint. Stopping the repetitive movements and rest will help. Rest allows the muscles to relax, which in turn allows the tendons to heal.

An alternative is to treat the muscles and release (relax) the muscle tissue. Tendons are the coverings of the muscles that attach the muscles to the bones. When the muscles become too tight, the tendons pull on the attachment to the bone, causing inflammation, or tennis elbow. Treatment is to release the muscles, which takes the pressure off the attachment and allows healing to take place.

One of my clients is a tennis pro who plays tennis every day and got Tennis Elbow. He was afraid that he would have to find another line of work. He didn't like the prospect. His case was chronic, in that he had pain when he played, but not so severe that he could not hold on to his racket. But it had been getting worse as he continued. I was able to release the forearm muscles enough so that after the first treatment he felt some relief. And after several weeks it became considerably better. Over the past couple of months he has continued to play on a daily basis, hitting the ball harder each week, and he continues to heal. We are all different. We heal at different rates. What works for one person may not work for another.

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