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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treatment Options

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

When considering carpal tunnel syndrome treatment options, it is best to begin as early as possible. This will aid in reducing progression and help decrease the amount of pain one will experience if left untreated. Initial treatment involves resting the affected hand, wrist and arm for at least a week, avoiding any activity that may worsen the symptoms. Activities to avoid would include any type of strenuous movement that requires the hand and wrist to twist or turn. Immobilizing the wrist in an effective brace or splint will keep the hand from further being damaged. Also applying cool packs may help reduce any swelling and inflammation that occurs.

There are several options available to carpal tunnel patients for treatment and relief. Both surgical and non-surgical treatments are effective in their own ways, whether limited or long term. Be sure to consult your doctor before pursuing any suggested treatment for your current issues.

Non-Surgical Treatments

Braces and Wraps – Using a brace properly positions and supports the wrist to help alleviate pain and symptoms of carpal tunnel. But you want to wear a brace that fits and works best for you. When choosing a brace consider factors such as a free palm design, which allows easier gripping; breathable fabric for maximum comfort; easy application; and metal support that gives the hand the freedom, yet proper support, to perform daily functions. A great example includes the aPallo Wrist day/night brace system. Not only will your wrist be supported, but it will also have the freedom to move and treat the conditions both day and night.

Taking B6 Supplements – Research has shown that a deficiency in vitamin B6 could be associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. Evidence has also shown that individuals with higher levels of vitamin C, but lower B6 levels, were associated with more cases of the symptoms known for the syndrome. Food sources that contain vitamin B6 include avocados, sunflower seeks, chicken, sweet potatoes and bananas.

Exercising – A very effective form of exercise to eliminate and reduce symptoms is that of yoga. Individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome who practice yoga tend to show signs of improvement in grip strength and pain reduction compared to those who do not. Other forms of exercise include stretching and strengthening the hands, arms and wrists.

Drugs – Many nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen are known to ease pain and swelling for a short time. Lidocaine can be injected directly into the wrist or taken orally to relieve pressure on the median nerve and provide immediate, temporary relief.

Alternative Therapies – Acupuncture and chiropractic care are two widely used alternative treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome. Both therapies may help to reduce symptoms and improve function of the hands and wrists. Additional alternative remedies include Feldenkrais and Hellerwork, both are forms of bodywork that teach individuals how to use movement to better function through the pain of carpal tunnel.

Surgical Treatments

The most common surgical procedure to alleviate pain is called carpal tunnel release. Surgery is recommended if symptoms last longer than 6 months, are unbearable and or become a hindrance to daily life. A surgical procedure involves separating the band of tissue around the wrist to reduce the pressure and constriction around the median nerve, causing the carpal tunnel syndrome and pain. The two types of carpal tunnel release surgeries are open release surgery and endoscopic surgery. Both of these are described below.

Open Release Surgery – This is the traditional procedure for operating on carpal tunnel. The surgery consists of making an incision about 2 inches long in the wrist and then cutting the carpal ligament to enlarge the carpal tunnel. The idea is to reduce the constriction around the carpal tunnel to alleviate the syndrome.

Endoscopic Surgery – This type of surgery involves one or two smaller incisions than that of the open release. Tissues are not divided to the same degree as open release, either and an endoscope is used to visualize the underside of the carpal ligament. Endoscopic surgery is less painful, reducing postoperative discomfort and allows for faster recovery.

Full recovery from any of the above mentioned surgeries can take months and physical therapy is recommended afterwards to regain strength in the hands and wrist. As mentioned before, be sure to consult with your doctor before pursuing any form of remedy or surgery. Treatment options vary from patient to patient and some treatments may work better than others.

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  • Diamond Grant

    People tend to underestimate the value of exercise when it comes to issues such as this one, or even in general. Exercise does help to alleviate the pain, tension, and swelling that comes with the syndrome. I would be more prone to use exercise or vitamins as a first option before trying other methods such as surgery or medications. The more natural the better for me personally.

    • Stephanie Schneider

      I agree that the value of exercise is underestimated. I know several people in my yoga classes who suffer from carpal tunnel. They experience significantly less pain when they are consistently going to the classes. Not only does it help with carpal tunnel symptoms, but it’s just good for overall health and well-being. I would definitely rather exercise than have surgery!

    • Rebecca

      Exercise should always be the first step in treatment before surgery is ever even thought about. Either that or physical therapy. I know many people with back and neck problems, along with carpal tunnel that are in yoga classes and everyone says that it has helped. Many of them have even eliminated surgery as an option because it has been that helpful.

    • Jerry

      I am glad to hear that exercise is good for a first step. Besides stretching and yoga, what types of exercise help? I know the blog said strengthening. I wonder what’s better though, machines or free weights? And should I focus more on higher weights, low reps, or high reps, low weights? At what point should someone consider physical therapy?

  • Stephanie Schneider

    I had never heard of the B6 supplements as a treatment option. When it comes to the endoscopic and open release surgeries, does anyone know how patients know which is a better option? I assume it’s ultimately a decision your doctor makes, but I wasn’t sure what it was based on.

    • PB and Running Shoes

      I’ve briefly heard about B6 for carpal tunnel. Apparently a vitamin B6 deficiency can increase the risk of carpal tunnel.

    • Julia

      I was informed a few months ago that I developed carpal tunnel syndrome due to a B6 deficiency. Since then, I have eaten multiple servings of fruits and vegetables that are high in that vitamin and I have been feeling much better since then. Even if you don’t have carpal tunnel yet, I’d get on eating that B6 so you don’t end up developing it like I did.

  • Jerry

    How common is acupuncture in the treatment of carpal tunnel? Is surgery last resort? I wonder if some people would want to do the surgery as sort of a one time fix so they don’t have to keep trying other methods. How long do patients normally remain in physical therapy after these surgeries?

    • jem1997

      I have had great success with acupuncture for other aches and pains but have never really considered it for carpal tunnel since my symptoms (so far) have not given me enough trouble that I felt it was necessary. I would think it would be a great idea — particularly with braces for “holding” the treatment.

    • Kevin C.

      I think I would rather deal with the pain of the carpal tunnel flareups then deal with a lot of needles. I know they aren’t suppose to hurt but I have a major fear of needles so the thought of getting acupuncture to treat carpal tunnel would be a definite negative for me!

    • NurseEJ

      I think acupuncture has become a very legitimate treatment option — even in the established Western medical community. It is a great treatment for pain and is absolutely a viable option for helping to treat carpal tunnel syndrome. Add a brace to prevent reinjury and this might be a great treatment plan especially if caught early.

    • PB and Running Shoes

      I’ve never tried acupuncture, but I wouldn’t mind seeing what it is all about someday.

  • Kellie

    I have never heard of the Feldenkrais and Hellerwork methods. From the post above, it sounds as though they both involve learning to live with the pain of carpal tunnel syndrome through body movement rather than actually doing something about it. Am I showing my ignorance? Or can someone explain more?

  • PB and Running Shoes

    I love the idea of exercises to help with carpal tunnel syndrome. Wonder if steroid injections work?

  • Sarah Jo Coryell

    I have always been able to use non surgical treatments to address my carpal tunnel issues. I am one of the lucky ones. My boss has had surgery on both of her wrists over the last two years. She is better but still has issues and flare ups now and then, especially when it is colder. I just hope I do not ever need surgery for my carpal tunnel.

  • Kevin C.

    I have to admit that I never knew about B6 being helpful for carpal tunnel syndrome. I will have to look into that more and see if maybe it can help me with my occasional flare ups and get to a point where I do not have any instance of carpal tunnel at all! That would be awesome!

    • T.J.

      I too was surprised to read about the B6. It is good to know what foods contain B6, but I wonder how much of it has to be eaten to get the benefit? What serving size of sunflower seeds or how much avocado needs to be eaten to see any benefit in carpal tunnel symptoms? It would be good to know so I know how much I need to be eating.

  • Patrick M.

    My boss had to have surgery on both of her wrists because her carpal tunnel was so bad. She had one wrist done, spent 4 or 5 months recovering and then had the other one done. While she is better and her carpal tunnel symptoms are much better she still has flare ups- especially during the colder weather.

  • Herb

    I’m sure every case is different, but I’m wondering how likely would it be for surgery to eliminate the need for a brace? Like most people, I would avoid going under the knife if at all possible but wrist surgery seems less risky than say, back or neck surgery. Still, I would want to know what I stand to gain.