According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is an important contributor to work-related disability. In fact, an astonishing eight million people are affected by carpal tunnel syndrome each year. The surgery for CTS is the second most common type of musculoskeletal surgery behind back surgery.
In 2015, surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome was recommended for me after being in pain for months. I finally went to the doctor after having pain, inflammation, and losing mobility and strength in my right hand. In this blog, I’ll share 3 ways that helped me heal from CTS and avoid surgery.
I was working at the front desk of a dental office after just moving to San Diego from Boston. I was waiting on my Dental Hygienist license to go through when the symptoms began. I was devastated and really scared; I wondered what the heck I was going to do….
I vividly remember wondering if I’d be able to practice dental hygiene anymore. I contemplated whether I’d have to go on disability at the age of 25. After doing a lot of research, I found that there are well 230,000 Carpal Tunnel surgeries performed annually, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
Receiving the diagnosis and being handed a referral to a surgeon and a prescription for pain medication, I felt a fire inside of me ignite. In that moment, I decided that I would do everything I could to avoid surgery. I did, and I want to share HOW I did that with you. Let’s dive in.
Adjusting Your Posture and Understanding Your Body
Okay, okay, okay, I had to start out with this one because I think it’s so important and often overlooked when it comes to carpal tunnel syndrome. When I first started getting pain in my hand, I had no idea that both my posture and my ergonomics at work played a role.
Mayo Clinic describes Carpal tunnel syndrome as “caused by pressure on the median nerve. The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway surrounded by bones and ligaments on the palm side of your hand. When the median nerve is compressed, the symptoms can include numbness, tingling and weakness in the hand and arm”
The anatomy of your hand/wrist, repetitive hand motions, and specific health conditions are commonly known causes for CTS. I want to invite you to explore something else with me: the pathway of the median nerve.
If you follow the median nerve and the extension of the median nerve past your wrist, you will find it’s origination at the brachial plexus. The brachial plexus is a bundle of nerves between the neck, shoulder, and spine on your back. The reason it’s important to note this is because compression anywhere from the brachial plexus to the wrist can cause symptoms of CTS to arise.
When looking at posture and ergonomics, it’s important to look at the hand/wrist, but also the upper back, shoulder and arm. When sitting, you want to align your spine, neck and shoulders appropriately so circulation can flow freely from the brachial plexus. Additionally, you want the same free-flow of blood to move down the arm to the hand and fingers. The more angles you have in your joints, the more blockages can occur.
Sitting with good posture isn’t always easy, here’s a blog post I wrote you can review to help you.. In addition, I’d love to help if you’re interested in optimizing your workspace and tailor it to the needs and health of your body. Send me a message here and we can discuss options to for an Ergonomic Session. I’ve helped dozens of people set up their workspace, and the results on their health are transformative!
Using Yoga to Treat a Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
There are two extremely important pieces to this one: balancing stretching with strengthening. Check out this video above below where I share the reasoning and importance of finding balance between the two.
Yoga therapy can be a really powerful way to heal from CTS naturally. If you’re using yoga as a therapeutic practice, or with a Certified Yoga Therapist like myself, it’s easy to target the practice for your needs specifically. Not all yoga is created equal. There are a lot of yoga classes that may actually add to the discomfort because it’s not intended to be therapeutic for the body.
If you’re looking for therapeutic practices that will help stretch and strengthen these areas to decrease pain and inflammation, I highly recommend Aligned Online. Aligned Online is my monthly yoga therapy membership program. If you sign up and become a member, you’ll find multiple classes on the platform to stretch/release tension and strengthen/build stability. I include multiple trainings for you n creating proper posture and alignment inside AO.
Even better? You can use the discount code “rdh2021” and get your first month of Aligned Online for only $12!!! Here’s the link again–there are no penalties for cancelling if you decide it’s not a fit for you.
Tennis Balls and Self-Massage for the Win!
I know I said this for the other ones, but this one is also SO important. I teach all of my clients how to use tennis balls for massage because it’s such an easy and inexpensive way to free your body from pain. If you’re familiar with using a foam roller, this is technique is similar and can be used as Myofascial Release.
This article describes what Myofascial Release is if you want to learn more. Using the tennis balls in/around the shoulders, upper back and neck helps to promote circulation and blood flow in this area, supporting hand/wrist health. In addition, you can use self-massage to do the same. I highly recommend using self-massage on your hand, wrist, forearm and around your elbow.
In my monthly membership program, Aligned Online, I have multiple trainings that teach you how to do this in depth. The membership also has multiple classes that use tennis balls and self-massage for the hand/wrist.
How to Treat a Carpal Tunnel Syndrome By Becoming Your Own Healer
Our bodies are designed to heal themselves. Even though our bodies weren’t designed to sit for extended periods of time, there are many ways to counteract the negative effects. Healing your body naturally begins by paying attention to your body. There are many tools to promote better posture, release tension, build strength and facilitate optimal healing. I recommend you starting with these ones noted here.
As you can tell, I’m a huge advocate for learning different alternative healing modalities in order to become our own healer. Although there are many instances where surgery is necessary, and in particular surgery for CTS like this one, I strongly believe there are measures we can take to reduce our symptoms and potentially avoid surgery altogether.
If you’re ready to heal your body and see if you can avoid surgery but you need some guidance, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I’ve helped many others heal pain when they thought they’d need to be put under the knife, in addition to my own. You can connect with me here, then we can set up a time to chat and see how I may be able to support you.
I truly hope this blog helps. If you have any questions, or you found this information useful, I’d love to hear about it. Feel free to pass this post along to anyone who may need it as well. Happy Healing!
Free Healthy Posture Masterclass
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About the Author
My name is Caitlin, I’m a chronic pain survivor, Certified Yoga Therapist, Registered Dental Hygienist, and founder and CEO of Caitlin Parsons Yoga Therapy, a yoga therapy and wellness company. I recently made my dreams a reality by quitting my full-time job as a dental hygienist to pursue my passion and purpose helping others get back into alignment.
Now I use my personal and professional experiences with chronic pain, stress and anxiety, and injury recovery to help women step back into their own alignment – in their bodies, minds and throughout their lives. I help empower women to create balance in their bodies and minds so they can access greater levels of freedom in their lives inside my monthly membership program (Aligned), group coaching program for hygienists (The Aligned Hygienist), a Yoga + Coaching Program for Dental Teams, and private yoga therapy coaching.
I love to share my knowledge and expertise on mindfulness and therapeutic yoga for back pain through my blog and social media platforms as well as guest appearances on other inspiring and like-minded podcasts.
Client Success Stories
“I started working with Caitlin because I had recently gotten surgery from a brain tumor. I had very little mobility in my shoulder and arm. I was concerned that the lack of mobility, discomfort and reduced strength would increase chances for more pain and injury. Working with Caitlin was amazing, I would recommend her personal approach to anyone. She is dedicated to her work, has great knowledge and communication. Caitlin does a wonderful job guiding you back to your body and yourself.” – Ania
“I started working with Caitlin because I had chronic low back pain and regular flare-ups. I was told by multiple doctors that I would always be in pain and my posture would never improve unless I had surgery. The pain got so bad that I couldn’t play volleyball anymore, which created a negative spiral in my mood, energy and throughout my life. The results I got with Caitlin was amazing. I no longer have chronic pain or chronic acid reflux which I was on medication for. I’m much healthier and happier now than I ever have been!” – Russ M.
“I started working with Caitlin because I had neck pain, shoulder pain, neck congestion and ringing in my ears. I was working a lot, taking care of my family, and I was beginning to spiral downwards in a state of stress and pain. With all of that, life became a chore. I wanted to learn how to take care of myself so I could live a happy life and take care of my responsibilities from a place of joy, not dread. I wanted to get my neck to a place where it wasn’t painful and tightening every time I was stressed.
Now I no longer have neck pain or tightness, I’m stressed and ear ringing has greatly reduced. My body feels so much better as a whole. Caitlin helped me find peace. Caitlin has an innate sense of knowing how to tailor each session to fit how I’m feeling in my body and what I need. Caitlin helped me change the way I react to stress; now I’m more mindful of my reactions and the way I take care of my body. I’m stronger in my body and mind now which has positively affected my entire life.” – Donna M.
“I started working with Caitlin because I was completely disconnected from my body because of a genetic disease, having constant, chronic pain, extreme trouble sleeping and anxiety living in my own skin. I wanted to feel better- I wanted to have less pain and have a better quality of life–building strength and reconnecting with my body were a bonus. Working with Caitlin exceeded my expectations- I sleep so much better now and my pain has improved significantly. I’m less anxious and have practices to help when my symptoms flare. I’m more grounded and embodied, I have a daily yoga practice that continues to build on the foundation Caitlin helped me create.
Caitlin is incredible, she validated me and helped me work on my whole self. She customized everything to work specifically for me. I 100% recommend working with Caitlin. She believed that healing was possible and she held that vision for me and brought it to each session, and eventually I believed and embodied it too. She helped me find the power in every single baby step towards a more whole and healthy life, and I am completely transformed by it. This work isn’t the quick fix, it’s deep, holistic, soul-led healing.” – Hayley
“Working with Caitlin was the best thing I ever did for myself. I thought that I would always have pain because I’ve done so many things to try and help but they haven’t worked, until yoga therapy with Caitlin. Now I am living with less pain, my posture has improved, I am getting stronger, and my clothes are getting looser.” – Joan
“Before I came to Caitlin, I was taking Motrin and Tylenol on a daily basis like clockwork. I would skip going to the pool or out with my family after work due to the pain in my body. I was very depressed and isolating myself from activities that I really enjoy doing with my family and friends. I had pain on a daily basis in my lower back, shoulder blades, hips and left knee. Some days I had so much pain and inflammation in my body I felt like I couldn’t make it through the day.
Since starting FTF I am slowly starting to get control of my pain and inflammation through the online program one-on-one sessions with Caitlin. Inflammation is decreasing, I’m sitting up taller and I’m more aware of my posture both at work and in my daily routines outside of work. I am no longer having to take Motrin and Tylenol on a daily basis and I am able to walk longe distances without pain in my knees. “
“I never thought I would get out of back, knee, and postural pain. I also have a curvature in my back that I have been told most of my life cannot be changed. When I came to Caitlin, I wasn’t playing my favorite sport and I was miserable at work. Even doing simple things was really painful. Caitlin completely personalizes her services based on your needs. She takes considerable time to answer all of my questions and targets my sessions for exactly what I need that day and what my goals are. Caitlin always asks me what is going on and listens really well. She is a wealth of knowledge about yoga, human anatomy, and how humans should move. No two sessions are the same. We changed the way I move while doing simple things like sitting in a car or at my desk, putting dishes away and bending over to clean dog poop so that my back is protected from re-injury. I am healing my back partly to return to playing volleyball. I now understand how to be in my volleyball stances and movements so that I can avoid injury when I get back to playing. I am already standing up much straighter and feel more confident. I never thought I would feel this good in my body and I am so wow-ed by Caitlins mastery of her craft.” – Russel
“Caitlin really knows how to curate yoga program for sustainable strengthening. My shoulders and core used to be weaknesses but after a few sessions I see my posture has improved and the range of motion in my shoulders. She’s caring, fun, and a pleasure to work with. I’d recommend her to anyone interested in trying yoga therapy.”
“Caitlin is fantastic. I’ve gone to many of her classes, specifically those with a focus on healthy backs. I’ve worked with her as a therapist on issues I have with my neck and shoulders from work. She’s patient, attentive and offers focused one-on-one sessions. The exercises I’ve done really help me combat the negative effects of sitting at a desk all day, highly recommend working with this lovely and professional woman!!”
“Caitlin has helped me grow and learn a lot about myself. She helped me realize the strong power of breath when I was over stressed and unaware of my mental needs. Caitlin helped me focus my energy, both good and bad, on my breath. With every deep inhale and cleansing exhale, I felt my stress and anxiety lessen and lessen. Eight years later, my main mantra is to ‘just breathe.’ It has literally changed my life. Along with the power of breath, Caitlin has helped me keep a constant awareness of how I physically hold myself. Not only has my posture changed, but I have also become stronger and my confidence has increased. I recently began running and was having pain in my hip and side leg. Through working with Caitlin, my pain subsided. She put together an easy to follow yoga sequence that helped my muscles and ligaments heal. I fully trust in Caitlin as a yoga professional, and recommend her gentle way of teaching to anyone.”
“This program has been so amazing for my pain. In just one class, my neck and shoulder tension released more than it has in years. This program has been so instrumental in managing and controlling my stress. It’s so easy to be “on the hamster wheel”. I look forward to my yoga time and meditation and have noticed a huge difference in my pain level. My family has even noticed my calmer demeanor. I couldn’t believe how much my pain was linked to my stress.”