How to Treat Carpal Tunnel: Carpal Tunnel Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
If you have recently been experiencing a tingling, “pins-and-needles” sensation in your hands, wrists, and arms, you may be experiencing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. If the feeling has persisted for several months and gradually worsened with time, it is even more likely that you are experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal tunnel is an extremely irritating, uncomfortable, and even painful disorder—but there are many carpal tunnel exercises and treatment options that can make it easier.
Remember that these carpal tunnel syndrome exercises, while helpful, are only temporary measures to control carpal tunnel pain and discomfort. Wearing a wrist compression sleeve can help to control the pain and swelling, guide circulation through the wrist, and provide support to the median nerve as it heals. Taking anti-inflammatory medications, applying ice to the area for 20-30 minutes a day, and elevating the wrist above the heart will also help to prevent carpal tunnel.
To learn more about carpal tunnel, carpal tunnel prevention, and carpal tunnel pain relief, click here.
Carpal Tunnel Symptoms, Risk Factors, and Causes
We have already discussed the most common symptom of carpal tunnel—a tingling, numbing sensation in the wrists, hands, and arms. Carpal tunnel develops when a nerve in your wrist, called the median nerve, is pinched or irritated from the application of too much pressure. The median nerve runs through a small passageway in the wrist called the “carpal tunnel”, which is how the syndrome gets its name.
The median nerve can be pinched or irritated through a variety of causes. In many cases, carpal tunnel is the result of typical, everyday activity, such as typing or texting on a handheld device. Often, carpal tunnel develops from performing a repetitive motion over and over, such as using vibrating hand tools, bowing a violin or cello over and over, or batting a tennis ball for many hours without rest. Women are three times more likely to experience carpal tunnel syndrome than men, possibly because women generally have smaller wrists, creating a tighter space for the median nerve.
Carpal tunnel does not develop overnight. The condition develops slowly and gradually, affecting just a few fingers and progressing to the entire hand. You may initially start to feel numbness or tingling in your index fingers, thumbs, and wrists.
Home Remedies for Carpal Tunnel
If your carpal tunnel pain is mild or moderate, you may be able to treat it at home with carpal tunnel stretches, wrist exercises, over-the-counter medication, and miscellaneous techniques. Below are 10 carpal tunnel syndrome treatment options that may help you find wrist pain relief.
Take breaks from repetitive tasks
When you’re doing a task that involves significant use of your hands and wrists, set a timer to go off every 15 minutes as a reminder to stop, relax your grip, and perform carpal tunnel syndrome exercises.
Wear a carpal tunnel brace or wrist compression sleeve.
Carpal tunnel can be alleviated by wearing either a carpal tunnel brace or wrist compression sleeve. If your carpal tunnel pain is severe, a brace will provide the rigidity necessary to keep your wrist completely immobile during activity. However, it can be frustrating to wear a wrist brace, as they tend to inhibit your ability to perform everyday tasks. If your carpal tunnel pain is mild or moderate, a compression sleeve can provide the same support and benefits as a brace while allowing much more flexibility.
Relax your grip
If you find yourself straining while writing, typing, or using a cash register, try to consciously reduce the amount of force you are using. Using a soft-grip pen or placing a wrist supporter in front of your keyboard might also help to alleviate your symptoms.
Avoid flexing your wrists
Again, a carpal tunnel brace or wrist compression sleeve can help you keep your wrist stable to avoid straining your median nerve.
Keep your hands warm
Fingerless gloves, portable hand warmers, and wrist compression sleeves can all help to keep the area warm in order to reduce pain and stiffness. Soaking your hands in hot water might also help you find carpal tunnel pain relief.
Perform carpal tunnel exercises
Many carpal tunnel exercises are simple enough to be performed anywhere—while standing in a line at a grocery store, riding up an elevator, or sitting in a waiting room, for instance. Click here to view some simple, quick stretches for carpal tunnel.
Elevate your hands and wrists
Whenever possible, elevate your hands and wrists above your heart. This will help excess fluid to drain. This is especially recommended if your carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by pregnancy or fractures.
Use over-the-counter medications
Over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin and ibuprofen can not only relieve your carpal tunnel pain, but reduce inflammation around the median nerve.
Severe Carpal Tunnel Treatment
If you have tried all these carpal tunnel remedies and still experienced no relief, you will then require more extreme forms of treatment. Be sure to see a doctor to discuss the best option for you.
These drugs, which must be prescribed by a doctor, can reduce the swelling and pressure on the median nerve. You will have the option of injections or oral steroids, but injections are usually more effective. This therapy may be particularly effective if your carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Carpal tunnel syndrome surgery
In the most extreme cases, carpal tunnel surgery will be necessary to relieve the pain. During the surgery, one or two incisions will be made in the ligament that is affecting the median nerve. This will release the nerve and increase the space around it. When the ligament eventually regrows, it will allow more space for the nerve than there was before.
If your carpal tunnel syndrome is extremely severe, even surgery might not be completely effective. However, it will help relieve some or most of the pain and help prevent further damage to the nerve.