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Keeping healing hands from harm: Prevention is better than cure

August 14, 2015 3 min read

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Close up of a massage therapist's hands whilst they massage a client's feet

As massage therapists, we can end up working our bodies exceptionally hard. We become so familiar with the routines and techniques that we do develop a certain level of resilience with time. However, this resilience isn’t always our friend, as it can disguise the onset of injuries. We tend to power on through aches and pains in the name of doing a good job. But if we care about our own health and wellbeing as much as we do about our customers’, it would pay to give a little extra attention to our own wear and tear. The length of our careers could depend on it. Injury is probably one of the worst things that can happen to a massage therapist, if massage is your bread and butter, so for that among other obvious reasons, self-neglect should not really be an option.

Even the most proactive of therapists can’t say for sure that they won’t suffer an injury at some point. The most common of these injuries seem to be those sustained by our hands and arms. So what are the most common of these, and what are the best ways to protect our hands from lasting damage?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Most people have heard of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, or know somebody who has had it. It’s fairly common even in those who don’t massage. I have experience of this in my own family, though thankfully haven’t had to deal with it myself. My father had a painful operation on his hand thanks to this one, so I know it’s one you’d want to avoid; the operation left his hand scarred and misshapen, and it doesn’t function quite the same way as it used to. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome occurs within the Carpal tunnel in the wrist, where nine tendons operate the finger flexors and median nerve. Therapists who have taken an in depth Diploma or something more thorough may be aware of the biology affected by this condition. It causes motor sensory or dysfunction by compressing the median nerve. It is down full extension of the wrist joint and finger flexion, so can happen to those who work a lot on computers too. It is extremely painful and because nerve tissue doesn’t heal quickly, you could find yourself out of work for an extended period, if not for good. Once this condition has set in, you will need to find as many ways as you can to reduce the pressure on the nerve, to prevent it from getting progressively worse.

How to avoid it

Because you are using your palms to create pressure, this can also be problematic, so it would be sensible to find other methods of creating this pressure too. You can try supinating the forearm or the ulnar side of your hand, to give the center of the wrist/palm a break now and then. Forearms and elbows certainly offer equally good opportunities to create pressure if a strong massage is required. Conditioning the arms and wrists through stretching activities is a must, as well as massaging yourself between treatments.

Tenosynovitis

Pain or injury to the hands and arms seems to be up there at the top of the list with back problems. Tenosynovitis causes pain at the base of the thumb and is caused by adhesions between tendons and the synovial sheaths around them. It occurs as a result of repetitive use of your thumb tendons, but the movements that cause it are very difficult to avoid as a massage therapist, given that they are part of the most basic techniques. This debilitating condition can get progressively worse if you don’t take time out, so it’s definitely best avoided in the first place if you can.

How to avoid it

Awareness is key. Pay attention to those small twinges and aches that might seem intermittent. You never know when they are going to start showing up more regularly. To prevent this from taking hold, it is important to condition your hands by stretching out the tendons before and after every massage you do. You can actually massage your own hands, with special focus on the affected tendons; this should reduce any adhesions occurring in the area before they become a problem.

Last but not least, we should be paying attention to other details of our lives, like our nutrition, relaxation and mental wellbeing. Stress is a known contributor to many conditions, and without the correct nutrition our entire body can become unbalanced, paving the way for injuries to take hold and fatigue to prevail. If we are not spending enough time resting and recuperating after the strenuous activity that is our average working day, we are allowing all of the little things to combine and create a potentially big thing – poor health or permanent injury. 

 

 

 

 

 


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