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Effect of Massage Therapy on Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Research Evidence on Massage Therapy
In a study conducted in Florida, massage therapy involving strokes of moderate pressure from the fingertips to the elbow was performed on the massage group versus a control group that did not receive massage therapy.3 Those in the massage group received one massage per week on the affected arm for four weeks. They were also instructed in self-massage, which they were to perform each night before bed.
Assessments were also made before and after the massage sessions on the first and last days of the study, including the Perceived Grip Strength Scale; VITAS, a pain assessment using a visual analogue scale; the state anxiety inventory; and the Profile of Mood States.
Results of the study showed that the subjects in the massage group had significantly less pain and reduced carpal tunnel symptoms, as well as shorter median peak latencies and increased grip strength.
“Functional activity also improved as noted in reduced pain and increased grip strength in the massage therapy group, both immediately after the first and last massage therapy sessions and by the end of the study,” state the study’s authors. “Finally, the massage therapy group reported lower anxiety and depressed mood levels both immediately after the first and last sessions and by the end of the study.”
Massage is generally safe. 1 However, it can sometimes exacerbate pain temporarily, even when properly performed. In addition, if massage is performed too forcefully on fragile people, bone fractures and other internal injuries are possible. However, licensed massage therapists have been trained in ways to avoid causing these problems. Machines designed to perform elements of massage may be less safe. 2
- Ernst E. The safety of massage therapy. Rheumatology (Oxford). 42(9):1101-6.
- Eliott MA, Taylor LP. Shiatsu sympathectomy: ICA dissection associated with a shiatsu massager. Neurology. 2002;58:1302-1304.
- Touch Research Institutes at the University of Miami School of Medicine in Miami, Florida. Authors: Tiffany Field, Ph.D.; Miguel Diego; Christy Cullen; Kristin Hartshorn; Alan Gruskin; Maria Hernandez-Reif, Ph.D.; and William Sunshine. Originally published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 2004, Vol. 8, pp. 9-14. http://www.massagemag.com/Magazine/2005/issue114/research114.1.php
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