HolisticWisdom.org web site
Linda Diane Feldt
NCTMB, Holistic Health Practitioner and Herbalist
The Ann Arbor Center for Holistic Health and Traditional Wisdom
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Conference Proceedings, American Polarity Therapy Association, June 2000
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:
Restoring Creative Expression
Linda Diane Feldt, RPP, NCTMB Holistic Health Practitioner
This workshop will explore the physical, emotional and energetic components of carpal tunnel syndrome. A simple technique will be taught that is effective in relieving the symptoms of carpal tunnel when performed by the client.
Literally thousands of people have benefited by this technique. It has been perfected over more than fifteen years of practice and teaching it to hundreds of clients and practitioners. Bakers, jewelers, musicians, computer users, nurses, carpenters, ceramicists, massage therapists, and many others have been helped by this approach.
One of the unique aspects of this approach is that it relies on the client learning the technique and using it themselves. The experience of literally ìhealing yourselfî from a debilitating ailment is very powerful, and positive.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
This common phrase describes a range of symptoms originating from inflammation or irritation of the median nerve that passes through the ìcarpal tunnelî of the wrist. These symptoms include numbness in the hand or fingers; pain in the wrist, elbow, or shoulder; loss of hand or finger strength; and unusual nerve sensations in the hand, wrist, elbow, or shoulder and neck area. The nerve responds to compression by sending pain signals, and by not carrying normal information, which provides sensation and motor impulses to the hand. For the purposes of this workshop, the exact definition or diagnosis is not important. There is no absolute way to confirm carpal tunnel syndrome, although an electromyograph (EMG) study of the nerve is a pretty good indicator. However, as this diagnosis will cost over $500, the cost/benefit is highly questionable.
Background and Experience, how the technique was developed
The techniques taught in this workshop is the result of over fifteen years of clinical experience. Almost no part of it is original, although the protocol used is my own. I saw a marked increase in clients complaining of carpal tunnel symptoms in the mid eighties. I had developed the syndrome myself a few years prior to that time, after more than a decade of doing bodywork. The methods for assessment and correction are derived from exposure to applied kinesiology, chiropractic adjustments, osteopathic manipulation, massage therapy, and of course Polarity Therapy.
I have taught this technique to well over a thousand people. While some had been formally diagnosed as having carpal tunnel syndrome, the majority had not. I found no difference at all between those who had the official designation and those who diagnosed themselves. The vast majority have been clients with no formal experience doing any sort of bodywork. I have also taught the techniques to professional practitioners.
This approach to carpal tunnel and related symptoms is not dependent on a confirmed diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome, as it is based on working with symptoms and if the client experiences relief of pain and increase in muscular strength.
There have been a few people who have not benefited, less than a dozen that I am aware of. There are a couple of reasons that stand out.
The first, is someone who has little or no muscular strength throughout their body. I have observed that people who have strong wrists and forearms recover more quickly, and those who lack such development have a more difficult time.
I have also seen that people who have obtained disability from a job they dislike are also slow to improve, for the obvious reason that they have a counter incentive for improvement.
A few people have carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms that are caused by other problems, and during the session with them it is obvious to both of us that this approach will not work. The advantage of this technique is that this feedback is immediate. The client will not invest time and money in an approach that will not work. Nearly everyone sees some sort of result immediately.
I had one client who was an aggressive, dramatic person, in his mid twenties. He was a drummer, who would drum for hours at a time. I observed him working on himself so aggressively that he actually made it worse, and couldnít comprehend my attempts to modify his approach. Self help techniques are not likely to work on people who are abusive to themselves.
It is worth mentioning here that I have also had people refuse to try this approach, or choose surgery before giving it a chance to work. In most of these cases, I would attribute this to the persons greater comfort with a doctor/patient paradigm rather than an approach that emphasizes self care.
Anatomy and Physiology
Very little knowledge of anatomy and physiology is actually needed. You will need to be able to find three locations: at the wrist, the radius bone near the elbow, and a point near the shoulder blade. The wrist location is found by first locating the landmarks of the protruding wrist bones where they meet the carpals, and locating the area just beyond those two bones towards the carpal bones. On most people there is a slight indentation just before the carpal bones widen.
The location of the point on the radius can be easily found by turning the hand so that it is in a ìthumbs upî position. On most people, the radius is then easily palpated as the bone that follows a line from the thumb to the elbow. Just before the elbow, there will be tender point. That is the area that may need to be worked on.
The last point is familiar to nearly everyone who has received shoulder rubs. It will be a few inches lateral to the spine, just above or on the highest point of the shoulder blade, when a person is upright. Usually when you find it the person will lean into your touch, say yes, or otherwise confirm that any touch or pressure there is welcome.
The Emotional and Energetic Aspects
Repetitive motions are not new to the human race. Grinding corn, carding wool, scraping hides, churning butter, making rope, and later industrial work all had repetition. Why is carpal tunnel syndrome so common now? My hypothesis, after talking to hundreds of people who truly suffer from this complaint is that we have become more and more disconnected from the ìheartî of our work. In the workshop, weíll explore the energy of ìheart and handsî and re-establishing that connection.
A feedback mechanism is required to determine if the approach has worked. While relief of pain and muscle strength are acceptable, it is easier to do a simple muscle test of the ability to hold the thumb and little finger together as they are gently pulled apart by the practitioner. Rhythm, gentleness, and the ability to distinguish between a strong and solid muscle response and a ìmushyî response are all that is needed. You are not testing for brute strength, but rather establishing a baseline to experience improvement or worsening; and also feeling for the muscle to give a clear and strong response.
In about 70% of the people I work with, a weak response will be corrected from working with the wrist. You simply circle the area of the carpals next to the radius and ulna prominences and squeeze gently, as if the hand were a pop bead that you are removing from its neighbor. A slight clicking may be heard or felt. The hand may need to be rotated slightly to achieve the correction. For best results, this will need to be repeated 20-30 times a day.
About 20 % of the time, the correction needs to be done at the elbow. With the thumb in a ìthumbs upî position, find the point nearest the elbow where you can still palpate the radius. About 80% of the time, pressure on that spot moving towards the clients body will be what works to bring strength back to the hand. About 20% of the time, it is the opposite. This correction could be made by painfully thrusting against the tender spot. I would suggest that an alternate method is to work with the bone energetically and allow it to move on its own. This technique will be demonstrated in the class.
You will not know until you try which direction will help, but as the movement towards the body is most often what is required, that should be tried first. This technique needs to be done 2-10 times a day.
In about 10% of cases neither of these techniques work. Most of the time it is because the nerve has been irritated for long enough that other parts of the body are affected. In this case releasing spasming and resonance irritation in the shoulder area are required. While there are a variety of methods that can be used, we will learn a very gentle technique that facilitates the body relearning how to let go. If your client has this shoulder problem, it will be difficult for them to work on it themselves. Since it is helpful to release this area at least once a day, the assistance of a friend is invaluable.
The basic hypothesis of why this approach works is that the frequent correction allows the tendons and ligaments to heal much faster than when they are chronically strained by being slightly or severely stressed. Most cases, even when the person is unable to lift anything, are significantly improved within two months.
Additional techniques that support the correction will be taught including releasing the forearm, special consideration of the bones of the hand, working with the nerve irritation, and ideas for teaching the method.
Using Braces and Splints
Braces and Splints are used by many people. In my experience they donít help much. The braces mostly help the person to remember not to use their hand. They donít have a therapeutic effect. Oddly enough, many people who have carpal tunnel tend to re-injure themselves at night by sleeping in positions that strain their wrists. This is a time when braces can help, to prevent the wrist from being places in an extreme position.
An inexpensive wrist support can be used to help support the correction. The best positioning is covering as much as the carpal area as possible, or if it is an elbow correction that helps, at the top of the forearm near the elbow. A wrist support will cost about $5-7, the splint can be the inexpensive $20 type. I have seen no benefit in spending hundreds of dollars for a custom made splint.
Prevention of Reoccurrences
Hyperextension of the wrist is the primary reason for reoccurrence, even more so than repetitive motions. An ergonomic evaluation is helpful if the problem seems related to a particular activity. Examples of simple corrections and options will be given in the workshop. Normally, a person can do their regular work while they are healing. Weíll talk about exceptions, but normally there is no problem.
The Other Implications
The experience of being able to heal a long standing and debilitating injury oneself can be life changing. Being able to teach the technique (and help others to heal themselves) makes it even more positive and empowering. This is also a self care technique with very clear and immediate benefits. Taking a small step to help oneself, with good reinforcement, can help put a person in a frame of mind to make more significant changes.
This technique is not one that will cause the practitioner to make a lot of money. It encourages and teaches clients to be independent rather than dependent. This is the ideal in health care. In teaching clients how to care for themselves we confront our fears about being in business, making money, and being competitive. The discomfort and conflict that this can bring up for a practitioner can be great, to begin to work through conflicts between ideals and realities.
It bothers me that such a simple technique is not well known simply because it can not be exploited for big money.
I purposely often teach this technique for free, just to break patterns and expectations. I have taught this to artisans at fairs, offered free sessions to all of the bakers at a community bakery for a number of years, and worked on strangers and friends wherever we run into each other. I offer to show it to people at the end of lectures and demonstrations, to anyone who wants to stay after. Giving away a technique that significantly helps peoples quality of life and also puts them in control of their own health is a revolutionary act. I highly encourage it.
An Obligation to Spread the Word
When I teach this technique, I ask people to please pass the knowledge on. Show other people. Ask them to show others. Copy this handout, if youíd like, distribute it freely. We have a deeply entrenched attitude about health and healing that needs to be changed. This can be a small part of making that change, through direct experience.
Please Support Research and Documentation
A web site is available that contains a questionnaire recording successes and failures with this technique, and to track the people who are teaching it. Please participate, and ask your clients and friends to participate. Greater documentation of efficacy will be useful in the future in gaining greater acceptance of this technique a larger audience. It will also help to confirm that this can be taught successfully even as the instruction moves away from my original work.
Feel free to contact me with questions, and feedback.
The website address is www.holisticwisdom.org/hwpages/carpaltunnel.html
You will find a copy of this handout, a formal questionnaire, and a place to make comments and suggestions. Thank you in advance for participating in the research study.