According to a recent study in Massage magazine, massage therapy gave some patients carpal tunnel pain relief of their symptoms.
The study was conducted by the staff at the Touch Research Institutes at the University of Miami School of Medicine.
Only 16 people were in the study, so it was a very small study, but all of them were diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). Subjects were assigned to either the standard treatment group or the massage therapy group. The massage group recieved one carpal tunnel massage per week on the affected arm for 4 weeks. They were also instructed to self massage for carpal tunnel relief, which they were to perform each night before bed.
The carpal tunnel massage routine consisted of stroking of moderate pressure from the fingertips to the elbow. A carpal tunnel massage and pain log was kept by subjects in the massage group to monitor their carpal tunnel pain relief.
Results of the study showed that the subjects in the massage group had significantly less carpal tunnel pain and overall reduced carpal tunnel symptoms. They also had some improvements in the nerve conduction studies and gains in grip strength. Functional activity also improved as noted in carpal tunnel relief in the hands.
The massage group also reported lower anxiety and depressed mood levels after the study.
The shortcomings of the study in my opinion, as mentioned earlier, was the small size of the group. Also it was performed in connection with a massage therapy school. The study states the massage was administered by a "therapist" but no other description?...was this a trained licensed massage therapist, a physical therapist, or an occupational therapist? Also, there was no mention if the carpal tunnel massage treatments were performed by one individual or by multiple therapists doing the same treatment.
Still it was a very informative and interesting study for those who seek alternative treatments like massage for carpal tunnel syndrome. I have had some of my patients get carpal tunnel relief with carpal tunnel massage therapy, while others have not. I tell patients who are interested that they can try it and see how it does for them. Keeping in mind that workers comp does not typically pay for such treatments like they do for physical therapy treatments.
Doctors did evaluate the subjects carpal tunnel symptoms at the begining and end of the 4 week study. The Tinel sign and Phalen test were also used at the start and finish of the study. A nerve conduction test was also performed at the start and finish of the study, as well as grip strength, pain assessment, mood and anxiety profiles.