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Guyon’s Canal Syndrome – Academy of Scientific Therapeutic massage

Introduction: The median nerve travels by way of a soft-tissue tunnel on the base of the hand. Nerve entrapment inside the tunnel constitutes the commonest higher extremity nerve entrapment, which everyone knows as carpal tunnel syndrome(CTS). Folks experiencing neurological signs within the hand typically instantly suspect CTS because the trigger. Nonetheless, the median nerve is just not the one one affected within the wrist, and can also be not the one nerve that travels by way of a soft-tissue tunnel on the base of the hand. The ulnar nerve additionally programs by way of a soft-tissue tunnel on the base of the hand, often known as Guyon’s canal, or Guyon’s tunnel. Compression of the ulnar nerve inside this tunnel is called Guyon’s canal (or tunnel) syndrome. It’s far much less frequent than CTS, however an essential situation to concentrate on with nerve ache within the higher extremity.


Anatomical Background

Guyon’s canal is created by a collection of stabilizing ligaments and connective tissues of the wrist and hand. The flexor retinaculum, additionally referred to as the transverse carpal ligament, makes up the roof of the carpal tunnel (Picture 1). This identical connective tissue construction makes up the ground of Guyon’s canal, so this tunnel is definitely superficial to the carpal tunnel on the ulnar side of the wrist.

Picture 1
Flexor retinaculum as roof of carpal tunnel and ground of Guyon’s canal
Picture is from 3D4Medical’s Full Anatomy software

The connective tissues of the wrist and base of the hand mix collectively in a posh webbing. Consequently it’s tough to separate and distinguish the precise boundaries of a few of these connective tissues, which is the probably motive for the discrepancy in figuring out the higher margin or roof of Guyon’s canal. Some sources say the roof of the canal is created by the palmar carpal ligament (Picture 2);1 others say it’s created by a connective tissue enlargement of the flexor carpi ulnaris tendon.2 Essential to notice is that the transverse carpal ligament is on the base of the tunnel and there’s a connective tissue band throughout the highest that will lengthen from a number of tissues. No matter which tissue the tunnel roof originates from, it gives the higher boundary for the tunnel.

Picture 2
Palmar carpal ligament as roof of Guyon’s canal
Picture is from 3D4Medical’s Full Anatomy software

A key distinction between the carpal tunnel and Guyon’s canal is the absence of tendons in Guyon’s tunnel. There are 9 tendons that run by way of the carpal tunnel together with the median nerve. As a result of there are such a lot of constructions going by way of the tunnel, nerve compression can happen from irritation and overuse of the tendons and their surrounding synovial sheaths. The state of affairs is kind of totally different in Guyon’s canal. There are not any tendons that run by way of Guyon’s canal, so nerve compression on this situation doesn’t happen from inflammatory tenosynovitis or strain from aggravated tendons. The contents of Guyon’s canal are the ulnar nerve, artery and veins. Nearly all of issues that happen in Guyon’s canal syndrome come up from exterior compressive forces on the base of the hand. Meaning nerve compression typically outcomes from exterior strain on the hand as an alternative of inside strain generated contained in the tunnel.

There are particular elements of neural anatomy which might be essential to grasp for figuring out the important thing symptom patterns in Guyon’s canal syndrome. Previous to getting into the canal the ulnar nerve divides into the superficial and deep branches (Picture 3). The superficial department is primarily sensory though it does carry a big variety of motor fibers as effectively. The deep department carries primarily motor fibers. Consequently, compression of the superficial department often produces combined motor and sensory signs, whereas compression of the deep department typically produces motor impairment with only a few sensory signs.

Picture 3
Distal branches of ulnar nerve
Picture is from 3D4Medical’s Full Anatomy software

Clarifying Guyon’s Canal Syndrome

Guyon’s canal syndrome is assessed in accordance with the place the compression happens. The unique and most typical classification was printed in a paper by Shea and McClain in 1969.3 They describe three sorts of ulnar nerve compression (Picture 4). Sort I includes compression previous to the separation of the deep and superficial branches. As a result of this location contains fibers from each the deep and superficial branches, the signs embody a mixture of motor and sensory impairment. Sort II includes compression of the deep motor department after it has separated from the superficial department. As a result of the deep motor department comprises virtually completely motor fibers, the first signs from compression within the Sort II model are atrophy and weak point in thumb and hand muscle tissue.

Picture 4
Three areas of compression for ulnar nerve branches
Picture is from 3D4Medical’s Full Anatomy software

The adductor pollicis is likely one of the bigger muscle tissue equipped by this deep department of the ulnar nerve. Weak spot or atrophy on this muscle could also be obvious by a decreased measurement or hollowing out of the thenar side of the palm. Muscle weak point within the adductor pollicis can be examined with the Froment’s signal that’s described later on this article. Compression of motor fibers within the Sort II model is the commonest of those three variations. Subsequently, it’s extra frequent to see patterns together with muscle weak point with a lesser diploma of sensory signs for many circumstances of Guyon’s canal syndrome.

Sort III compression happens close to the distal finish of the canal and impacts the superficial sensory department, and signs are typically paresthesia, numbness, or sharp ache sensations within the ulnar side of the hand or the final two fingers.

Shoppers might complain of neurological sensations all through the complete hand. Mechanical elements that result in median nerve compression in CTS might also have an effect on the ulnar nerve in Guyon’s canal. In these circumstances neurological sensations are felt all through the complete palmar side of the hand.4 If signs are being felt in each the median and ulnar nerve distributions of the hand, it is very important tackle potential entrapment areas of each the median and ulnar nerves.


What Causes Guyon’s Canal Syndrome

Median nerve compression in carpal tunnel syndrome is commonly created by irritation of constructions inside the tunnel and nearly all of circumstances contain intrinsic (compression from inside the tunnel) strain. Nearly all of Guyon’s canal syndrome circumstances seem to happen from extrinsic (outdoors the tunnel) compression, though anatomical elements can produce compression from inside the tunnel itself.

Delicate-tissue cysts or tumors can develop contained in the canal and are one of many extra frequent elements of intrinsic compression. There are additionally reviews of anatomical anomalies reminiscent of uncommon muscle tissue or tendons that may happen inside the tunnel.5 Hypertrophy or enlargement of the flexor carpi ulnaris muscle can even trigger a lower in tunnel quantity, as can irregularities within the form of the hook of the hamate bone. It’s tough to establish any of those anatomical anomalies by way of bodily examination and most are recognized by way of high-tech diagnostic research or surgical exploration. From a medical perspective recognizing the doable existence of anatomical anomalies helps slender the evaluation when no obvious indicators point out a probable trigger for nerve compression.

The commonest causes of Guyon’s canal syndrome contain exterior strain on the bottom of the hand that compress the nerve. If the wrist is in hyperextension when a compressive power is utilized to the bottom of the hand, the nerve is vulnerable to damage as a result of the nerve is stretched and uncovered on this place. The FOOSH (Fall On Outstretched Hand) damage is an instance, because the particular person’s physique weight lands on the bottom of the hand with the wrist in full hyperextension. This place makes the ulnar nerve susceptible to compression damage. The ulnar nerve can be injured by bone displacements or fractures within the wrist that occurred throughout the FOOSH.

Guyon’s canal syndrome is frequent amongst long-distance cyclists as a result of their physique place locations higher physique weight onto a hyperextended hand holding the bike’s handlebars. Throughout the biking neighborhood this situation is incessantly known as handlebar palsy. It’s particularly aggravated with lengthy durations of downhill driving when extra strain is placed on the fingers.

A comparability of FOOSH damage and handlebar palsy illustrates the variations in diploma of nerve damage on this situation. The diploma of nerve compression is expounded to 1) the quantity of compressive power and a couple of) the size of time that power is utilized. Within the FOOSH damage there’s a excessive diploma of compressive power, however the power is utilized just for a short while. In handlebar palsy the compressive power is far much less, however the power is utilized over an extended interval.

The practitioner ought to establish key elements within the shopper historical past that signifies each the quantity of compressive power utilized and the size of time it was utilized with the intention to decide the severity of nerve compression. Different elements that result in Guyon’s canal syndrome embody strolling on crutches, working energy instruments, and varied sporting actions reminiscent of handball, basketball, tennis, squash, golf, martial arts, and breakdancing.

One other reason behind the ulnar nerve compression of the wrist is typically described within the literature as hypothenar hammer syndrome. That is primarily a elaborate title for banging one thing together with your hand. We’d all be clever to keep in mind that the hand is just not a hammer and utilizing it like one can simply result in nerve compression.


Evaluation and Analysis

Recognizing medical indicators and signs together with an in depth bodily examination stays probably the most correct technique of assessing ulnar nerve compression within the canal. Along with the data reported throughout the shopper historical past (ache within the hand, weakened grip energy, historical past of wrist compression, and so on.), there are different key medical indicators. Throughout vary of movement testing on the wrist, ache or neurological signs are often exaggerated by wrist extension actions as it will bowstring the nerve inside the tunnel. Nonetheless, remember the fact that the Sort II compression primarily impacts motor fibers, so the sensory signs wouldn’t present up throughout a Sort II compression downside, which is the commonest.

Picture 5
Atrophy of hand muscle tissue (flatness of palm) from ulnar nerve compression
Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

As famous earlier, hypothenar or thenar muscle atrophy could also be seen (Picture 5). There might also be some lack of coordination in particular hand actions or greedy actions which might be examined throughout bodily examination. Generally clawing of the hand could also be obvious (Picture 6). If atrophy is seen within the hand, it often signifies a persistent situation as atrophy doesn’t happen quickly.

Picture 6
Clawing of the hand typically current in Guyon’s canal syndrome
Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

When performing the bodily examination remember the fact that different areas of ulnar nerve entrapment can happen all through the higher extremity and will give comparable signs. Actually, ulnar nerve compression within the cubital tunnel on the elbow is definitely the second most typical higher extremity nerve entrapment situation. Compression of the early branches of the ulnar nerve are additionally way more frequent in thoracic outlet syndrome than Guyon’s canal syndrome, so display for this risk as effectively.  It’s essential to establish any extra proximal location of nerve entrapment and deal with the complete size of the ulnar nerve so that every one potential areas of nerve compromise might be addressed. This may lower the probability that a number of nerve compression websites (referred to as a number of crush phenomenon) will trigger further nerve impairment.

A particular orthopedic take a look at referred to as Tinel’s signal is typically used to establish ulnar nerve compression on the wrist. This take a look at is carried out by tapping on the potential space of nerve compression with the fingertips and evaluating if it produces elevated neurological sensation. Tinel’s signal is simply useful for the Sort I and III variations of Guyon’s canal syndrome since these have predominant sensory signs. The Tinel’s signal is just not thought-about extremely correct to start with and because the Sort II (motor nerve variation) of Guyon’s canal syndrome is extra frequent, Tinel’s signal is just not used with nice frequency to judge this downside.

One other orthopedic take a look at referred to as Froment’s signal focuses on the Sort II (motor) variation. On this take a look at the shopper grasps a small piece of paper between the thumb and fingers. The practitioner makes an attempt to drag the paper out of the shopper’s grasp (Picture 7). Whether it is laborious to drag the paper out, this means a powerful and well-functioning adductor pollicis muscle. Whether it is simple to drag the paper out, this typically signifies weak point within the adductor pollicis muscle, which is innervated by the ulnar nerve and will point out compression of that motor department.

Picture 7
Froment’s signal for evaluating muscle weak point

Remedy Methods

With nerve compression issues the first technique is to lower strain on the nerve in order that it will probably heal. As a result of so many circumstances of Guyon’s canal syndrome contain exterior compression, a major therapy purpose is to regulate way of life actions (like biking ergonomics) to lower strain on the bottom of the hand. Nerve tissue is sluggish to heal so it will probably take a matter of months for signs to abate relying on how extreme the nerve compression was to start with.

As a result of therapy ought to keep away from placing further strain on the nerve, therapeutic massage therapy needs to be utilized fastidiously on this area in order to not additional worsen nerve compression. Remedy of any ulnar nerve compression downside will likely be best if the complete pathway of the nerve might be addressed all through the higher extremity. Meaning particular consideration needs to be targeted to the medial side of the forearm and higher arm.

As well as, therapy methods that cut back hypertonicity within the pectoralis minor muscle and lateral cervical muscle tissue the place the brachial plexus branches exit the thoracic outlet will likely be significantly useful. Any variety of therapeutic massage strategies might be useful on this area so long as they’re geared toward decreasing muscular hypertonicity and never placing further strain on susceptible compression websites of the nerve.

Some purchasers won’t reply to therapeutic massage or different conservative therapy interventions. There could also be an obstruction within the canal that can’t be addressed by way of noninvasive procedures and surgical procedure is a probable possibility. Nonetheless, an intensive routine of conservative therapy(s) previous to surgical procedure is at all times beneficial to cut back points that might additional impair the perform of the nerve. Higher consciousness of much less incessantly occurring circumstances reminiscent of Guyon’s canal syndrome helps us ship more practical therapy for our purchasers.


  1. Brody MJ, Bindra RR. Ulnar tunnel syndrome. Disord Hand Vol 2 Hand Reconstr Nerve Compression. 2015;43(4):267-282. doi:10.1007/978-1-4471-6560-6_15.
  2. Pecina M, Markiewitz A, Krmpotic-Nemanic J. Tunnel Syndromes: Peripheral Nerve Compression Syndromes. Boca Raton: CRC Press; 2001.
  3. Shea J, McClain E. Ulnar-nerve compression syndromes at and beneath the wrist. J Bone Jt Surg Am. 1969;51(6):1095-1103.
  4. Lewańska M, Walusiak-skorupa J. Is Ulnar Nerve Entrapment At Wrist Frequent Amongst Sufferers With Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Occupationally Uncovered To Monotype Wrist Actions ? 2017;30(6):861-874.
  5. Hoogvliet P, Coert JH, Fridén J, Huisstede BMA. deal with Guyon’s canal syndrome? Outcomes from the European HANDGUIDE research: A multidisciplinary therapy guideline. Br J Sports activities Med. 2013;47(17):1063-1070. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2013-092280.



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