Can Rolfing Help Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

If you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), the pain and numbness in your hand can be daunting. If the symptoms progress you can develop muscle weakness and loss of function. It can become difficult to hold a pencil, open a jar or pick up a coin.

Our hands are so important to us. In this article we will explore what CTS is and some treatment options to consider.

Photo Courtesy: Arthritis Research UK

Photo Courtesy: Arthritis Research UK

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a highly specific nerve problem in which the median nerve becomes entrapped (compressed) as it passes through the bones of the wrist. The median nerve innervates the muscles within the hand and forearm. It is responsible for the sensation that is felt in the thumb, index, middle and the radial half of the middle finger. If symptoms are experienced in the pinky, upper arm, shoulder or neck you probably don’t have CTS.

What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome frequently accompanies repetitive strain. Static postures often contribute to this problem. Office workers who spend many hours sitting at a computer often hold their wrists very still for many hours while using the keyboard or mouse. Professional musicians too have similar challenges and are prone to CTS. Carpenters and assembly line workers also get carpal tunnel syndrome. Repetitive strain and static postures typically cause shortening of the muscles of the hand and their connective tissue wrappings. Shortening of these structures of the hand alters the biomechanics of the hand and set the stage for CTS. Carpal tunnel frequently occurs during pregnancy due to increased swelling of the wrist that causes compression of the median nerve.

Anatomical Structures

Anatomically, the transverse carpal ligament spans across the carpal bones (eight wrist bones.) The carpal tunnel is the passageway for the median nerve and tendons to travel through the wrist. Additionally, their are fascial layers in the hand and forearm that play an important role in wrist mobility and function including the flexor retinaculum and the interosseous membrane of the forearm.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome occurs when the myofascia of the hand, wrist and transverse carpal ligament shorten. Mobility of the hand and wrist are lost and the median nerve and soft tissues structures within the carpal tunnel become adherent and inflamed. The entrapped median nerve becomes the source of numbness, tingling, pain and muscle weakness in the hand.

Surgery treats this problem by cutting the transverse carpal ligament. While this procedure is often affective, CTS can recur because the underlying issues have not been addressed. Additionally, the scar tissue resulting from surgery can be problematic over the course of time.

Rolfing and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The Rolfing Technique of Structural Integration is a therapeutic process during which the practitioner restores span and mobility to the structures of the forearm and hand. This is achieved through sustained pressure through the Rolfer’s hands. As the alignment and mobility are restored in the structure, biomechanics in the wrist improve. Many people experience positive results quickly, however long lasting results require a course of treatment.

Rolfers realign the structure in its entirety over the course of 10 sessions. It is not a symptom oriented approach but rather a series of sessions designed to restore length and mobility to the whole body. By releasing chronic stress within the myofascia many problems including the nerve compression of CTS can be healed.

Rolfing has shown itself to be an effective and gentle treatment for CTS. In future articles we will share self help techniques that include stretches and sitting posture to alleviate further episodes and prevent CTS.

The contents in this article are not meant to be diagnostic or prescriptive.  Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is often complex, and a physician should always be consulted before choosing a course of treatment.

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