Massage therapists tend to overuse their fingers and thumbs in their work, which can lead to musculoskeletal disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome and DeQuervain’s thumb. There are times when you may feel you must use your fingers or thumbs to do your work, but there are likely many other times when you could easily substitute other techniques using other parts of your body to do the same work and get the same results.
Be sure to palpate lightly first to find the spot you want to treat, mark it with your thumb or fingers, and then apply pressure with another part of your hand or arm. Vary the part of the hand or arm you use to apply pressure, so you don’t use one part exclusively or repetitively.
To save your delicate, easily-injured fingers and thumbs, try using the following suggestions to perform techniques and apply pressure:
- Knuckles: alternate using the proximal and middle phalanges. If you want to use one knuckle, it’s best to use the middle knuckle on your middle finger, since it naturally sticks out more, and you can use the fingers on either side for lateral support.
- Edge of the hypothenar area: the edge of the palm between the pinky finger and the styloid process of the ulna. Use in the same way you’d use your knuckles.
- Elbows: for working on larger muscles that are not close to potential endangerment sites.
- Ulnar stylus.
- Hand tools.
Reproduced with permission from Save Your Hands! The Complete Guide to Injury Prevention and Ergonomics for Manual Therapists, Second Edition, , C.E.A.S., and Richard W. Goggins, C.P.E., L.M.P., © 2008 Gilded Age Press. For more information, visitwww.saveyourhands.com. Read their blog here.