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Print Posted By Lahela Hekekia on 11/07/2017

Can I Improve "Carpal Tunnel" Symptoms WITHOUT Surgery?

Can I Improve

Aloha!  I wanted to take a slight detour from my usual articles on Scoliosis because a client/friend asked:

"Can Pilates help my Carpal Tunnel symptoms?"  

As well as the followup question:

"Is there anything else non-surgical, for Carpal Tunnel?"

The short answer is:  Yes, it's possible to improve if your Pilates Teacher also happens to be a Massage Therapist or Physical Therapist -- someone with a pretty deep knowledge of Anatomy and Kinesiology.  But it's not going to come from typical Pilates exercises.

So...  a typical Pilates teacher doesn't learn detailed anatomy?    Right.   

And -- Pilates Therapy does something that a regular Doctor isn't doing?  Yes.

Let's talk about the typical Medical view point on Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and how it's treated.  Physicians view it as a compressed nerve in your wrist, causing tingling sensations and/or numbness.  It's often noticed when gripping something (like trying to hold your phone or mouse), as well as typing.   To diagnose this condition, Doctors will do some tests of your muscle strength, your sense of feeling in the fingers, and maybe order some diagnostics such as an Electomyogram, to assess your muscles and nerves.  

Let's be clear on this:  only the Physician can diagnose you.  A Pilates Teacher, Massage Therapist, even a P.T. does not diagnose clients.  They may however, recognize your complaints and say, "Have you considered going to the Doctor to get checked out to see if you have _____?"  Or maybe:  "Hmmm, I have a bunch of clients with ____ who have similar symptoms, it's a good idea to go see a Doctor."  This is important so that we can work with your Medical team and get their instructions and feedback.

The conventional Medical treatments for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome are generally cortisone shots, medications, wearing splints, and surgery -- and avoiding repetitive movements that aggravate symptoms.  Surgery generally involves severing a ligament to take pressure off of the nerves.  While patients vary, your recovery could take a long time, perhaps months.

Let's also be clear:  I'm not saying to avoid surgery.  That decision is between you and your Physician.  What I do want to say is, that it's a great idea to do your own research on what to expect after surgery, success rates, feedback from friends who had the procedure done, and what are alternatives to surgery.  Yes -- I do have friends who had the surgery and after more than a year, report that their symptoms got better for a while but then returned.  So that they're contemplating a repeat surgery.

Does Carpal Tunnel Surgery "Succeed?"  It depends on whether you're asking the Surgeon, or the Patient.  Results definitely vary.

Apparently, symptoms return to 85% of people -- and many people have repeat surgeries despite Physicians claiming high success rates.   Apparently for the Doctors, a success is if any symptoms resolve directly after surgery (at least according to that linked article above).  But patients may have a different idea of what is success.  They were expecting to recover more quickly?   Their long-term results were not as they hoped?  All of this can affect our perception of whether something "worked" or not.    

The Medical community understands that their claims of 75-90% success from surgery need to be more thoroughly evaluated:  "Resolution of symptoms and recovery of function after CTR have not been as thoroughly addressed in the long-term as they have in the short-term."

So -- tell me more about alternatives to surgery!

1.  There are specialized, advanced massage techniques -- I attended an amazing training in Haase Myotherapy which has a protocol for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, among others.  And yes, I can offer that to my clients, as a Licensed Massage Therapist (MAT#6286) who is also Board Certified by NCBTMB (307766-00).

2.  Laser Therapy:  I happened to chat with my awesome Chiropractor, Dr. Paul Thurlow and asked if his Laser would help with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome -- even for someone who has had the surgery and felt that it did not succeed.  While he mentioned that it's possible to get a 70% improvement in symptoms according to research, you can also see in his website some statistics with the laser therapy. 

3.  Therapeutic Movement and Breathing.  This is where I integrate a highly modified type of Pilates exercise with Osteopathic Sciences and gentle hands-on therapy that my massage license allows. 

What I teach people are things that the good Doctor is not noticing -- things which are very much noticed by the massage therapist.  Such as:  

-- tension in the neck and shoulder, issues with being able to lift the arm with ease, etc.;

-- The difference it makes when we breathe fully, compared with the shallow, inefficient breathing that many people unknowingly have; and even improper breathing that typical Pilates teaches (keeping the belly button "sucked in" and feeling as if you're "in between two panes of glass," and exhaling "through pursed lips" which are common dysfunctional cues;

-- sleeping in positions that are bad (on your belly with the head turned to the side), and 

-- habitual posture -- such as the typical desk-slouch with raised shoulders and forward-head; posture with repetition such as in your favorite sport, and more.

I also teach people a little bit about their anatomy, especially their nerves, in a way that's easy to digest.  In fact -- I'm not sure why Doctors wouldn't realize why the collar bone is such an important thing to notice, and how it applies to all four of those issues above.  Does this pique your interest?  I've done presentations on that.  Would you like me to do one?  Write to me so I know who's out there listening, and I'll develop a webinar and/or podcast!

A proper Pilates session focuses on improving your every day posture and habits -- including your Breathing.  And a good result is feeling an improvement from aches/pains; feeling more flexible; and being able to stand taller.

Can I say this again?  Breathing changes everything.  It can make you more tense, and feel more pain, or it can do the opposite.  I look forward to showing you what real breathing is like, and how that changes everything.  

And can I recap that it's been my adamant position, ever since massage school almost 20 years ago, that Carpal Tunnel involves a lot more than just the wrist.

With Aloha,



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