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Treatments for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Conditions
Oct 11, 2021

Treatments for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition where the median nerve in the carpal tunnel, a narrow passageway in the palm area of your hand, becomes pressed and squeezed. This puts pressure on the nerve and causes pain, numbness and tingling sensations. Since the condition presents such a broad range of symptoms, it is crucial that a qualified medical professional perform the diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome as there isn't an easy way to do it yourself. If carpal tunnel syndrome is not treated, the carpal tunnel can worsen and start to affect other things such as your grip strength and ability to use your hands.

People who engage in repetitive movements using their hands are at higher risk of carpal tunnel syndrome. The good news is, there are various treatment options that can help provide carpal tunnel pain relief. Strengthening your wrists may also help prevent further injury that could exacerbate the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, which include pain and numbness in the hand and wrist area, especially when moving the thumb or fingers up towards the elbow, swelling in carpal tunnel, and weakness when trying to hold items with your affected hand.

Treatment Options for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

There are many treatment options available if you have carpal tunnel syndrome and see surgery as a last resort. Carpal tunnel syndrome sufferers may seek relief from pain by having carpal tunnel release surgery to create more space in the carpal tunnel region of their wrist so that the nerve has room to move freely again. This makes it easier for the median nerve to glide through the carpal tunnel without being compressed or pinched. Endoscopic surgery requires smaller incisions than the previous type of carpal tunnel surgery.

However, if surgery for carpal tunnel is last on your list as you would rather use other treatment methods available for less severe carpal tunnel syndrome, you've come to the right place. In addition to oral corticosteroid or corticosteroid injections, some people prefer to take pain relievers or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug rather than go under the knife. Unfortunately, using them for a prolonged period can lead to a slew of adverse effects, including headaches, stomach ulcers, allergic reactions and cardiovascular disease, to name a few. 

However, many people find natural remedies for carpal tunnel pain very helpful as they are devoid of any serious side effects. Others find carpal tunnel exercises really beneficial too. Here below are some of the best non-surgical treatments that can help with this common condition.

Warm Therapy

This is an effective treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome's mild symptoms, according to a study published in 2013. The application of mild heat to the affected area has shown to significantly reduce pain. This effect lasted for about 30 minutes and researchers suspect that this is due to carpal tunnel syndrome sufferers' body temperature being higher than average. Specifically, carpal tunnel syndrome pain seems to benefit from 34°C (93 degrees Fahrenheit) warmth on the affected hand.

Applying heat therapy can be done using a heating pad or via special heat wraps that target only the carpal tunnel area and do not get hot enough to burn skin.

Wrist Splints

There are a number of carpal tunnel braces that can help reduce the incidence of carpal tunnel syndrome. In fact, they have been used for years as one of the most common treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome. A wrist brace provides carpal tunnel compression to relieve wrist and lower arm pain. It also includes a metal splint that stabilizes the wrist to relieve pressure on the median nerve. 

Biofeedback

Some carpal tunnel syndrome treatments include biofeedback, which is the practice of training your brain and muscles to perform better by giving yourself real-time feedback on body functions. For carpal tunnel syndrome, biofeedback has been used to help carpal tunnel syndrome patients learn how to relax muscles in the hands and fingers, which allows carpal tunnel blood flow to return to normal and eliminate wrist pain.

Massage

You can use carpal tunnel massage therapy by rubbing your hands together for several minutes every day. This helps improve carpal tunnel syndrome blood flow so that pressure inside the carpal canal is reduced. The carpal massager can also be used along with hand exercises like flexing or extending the wrists

Ice Therapy

Ice packs are commonly used in the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome. Applying an ice pack numerous times throughout each day to the affected area can reduce pain and swelling related to carpal tunnel syndrome. Proper carpal tunnel ice therapy should last for 15 to 20 minutes each session and you shouldn't use ice packs more than three times per day because this may cause tissue damage.

Stretching Exercises

Carpal tunnel syndrome stretches exercises can also be very effective carpal tunnel treatments. These exercises include slowly extending the fingers toward the little finger, extending the wrist, flexing the wrists upward toward your face (and back down again), stretching out carpal muscles by interlocking carpal fingers and holding them that way, then rotating carpal knuckles downward, then outward several times. Repeat these carpal tunnel exercises three times per day every day.

Carpal tunnel exercises involve the compression of the carpal bones in the wrist area. The muscle at the base of your thumb (opponens pollicis) inserts into the carpal bones via tendons and if these tendons are tight, it can compress on nerves at this location resulting in carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms. Exercising your wrist stretches out those tendons to provide carpal tunnel relief. 

Electrotherapy

This conservative treatment utilises the electrical activity of the body to stimulate its natural healing ability. Small currents or high-frequency pulses are used in electrotherapy carpal tunnel treatments to stimulate nerves and muscles. If carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by a problem with the median nerve, carpal tunnel electrotherapy can help repair nerve damage and get it to function normally again.

Occupational Therapy

An occupational therapist works with patients who have carpal tunnel syndrome to develop safe and effective exercises that can be done at home. They also show patients how to work with physical devices, like splints or ergonomic keyboards, that help reduce carpal tunnel symptoms. The main goal of this modality is to help patients become more independent and functional within their homes and workplaces. That way they can continue working as usual rather than having to stop working while they recover from this condition. 

Strength Training

Strengthening carpal tunnel syndrome exercises can also help some carpal tunnel patients. By strengthening carpal tunnel muscles and tendons, this type of exercise strengthens tissues surrounding the carpal tunnel so that they support the median nerve better.

These strength training for carpal canal exercises include squeezing a stress ball, flexing and extending your hand and wrist (bending and straightening), drawing circles on a piece of paper with your thumb and first two fingers while holding a pen or pencil in the other hand (repeat several times clockwise and counterclockwise), and squeezing carpal tunnel exercises with the fingers and thumb.

Herbal Carpal Tunnel Wrist Wrap

The herbal carpal tunnel wrist wrap contains carpal tunnel supporting herbs such as arnica, boswellia and calendula. These natural herbs may help strengthen your wrists and provide relief from symptoms of pain. 

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy helps strengthen the muscles surrounding the carpal bones, hence reducing pain associated with carpal tunnel syndrome and speeding up recovery period. A physical therapist will teach you exercises to improve grip strength and reduce wrist pain caused by this medical condition. 

Prevention Tips for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Prevention is always better than treatment. You can help prevent carpal tunnel by performing carpal tunnel prevention exercises, taking carpal tunnel syndrome vitamins, and practising healthy work habits to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome from developing in the first place. Here are some carpal tunnel prevention tips that have been recommended by doctors practicing medicine for years.

Keep your hands warm while at work

Cold temperatures increase the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome because they may cause blood vessels to constrict which reduces the amount of oxygen reaching the fingers. If you're going to be working in a cold environment, wear gloves to keep your hands warm.

Give your hands a break

Don't overuse your hands while working, lest you tear the transverse carpal ligament, which supports the bony structure of the wrist and allows the fingers to bend with ease. If you only use your hands occasionally, it's easier to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome or reduce the likelihood of developing severe symptoms in case they do appear. For example, if you type for several hours a day but don't exercise your fingers, carpal tunnel treatment should help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome from developing.

Take frequent breaks from manual tasks

If you engage in manual labor, you have an increased risk for carpal tunnel. That is why you have to take extra care when performing your daily activities. Stretch and relax your hand muscles to reduce carpal tunnel pain and the other accompanying symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. Taking a five-minute break every 20 minutes reduces your risk for wrist fracture and may alleviate pain.

Stretch your fingers and wrist

Stretching your fingers and wrist periodically during the day will strengthen your flexor tendons and increase their flexibility. This is especially important if you engage in repetitive hand movements. 

Limit your alcohol intake

Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol has a direct link to carpal tunnel syndrome. It is believed to increase pressure on the median nerve and cause pain when repetitive activities are performed with the hands.

In addition to these nonsurgical treatments for mild carpal tunnel syndrome, patient education is essential when treating the condition because resting the nerve doesn't ensure it will heal itself. Even if symptoms disappear for a short while, they can return later on. That said, taking precautions like observing good posture and using ergonomic devices at home and work can greatly reduce carpal tunnel syndrome's chance of returning or worsening.

During a complete physical examination with your primary care physician, you can discover what treatment plan will be most effective for your median nerve compression. You can then decide which carpal tunnel treatment is best suited to you and reach out to the appropriate natural therapist in your area.

FAQs About Treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Can carpal tunnel syndrome go away on its own?

Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome rarely disappear on their own without treatment. It does not, however, mean that surgery is the only option. Mild symptoms can be easily treated by natural remedies.

Is heat or ice better for carpal tunnel?

Ice can reduce pain and swelling, but hot compresses are believed to be more effective for healing and restoring damaged tissue. The reason behind this is that heat reduces inflammation in the body.

What can be mistaken for carpal tunnel?

The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are similar to those of arthritis, repetitive strain injury (RSI) and wrist tendonitis. Because of this, it is not recommended to self-diagnose the condition.

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