Wrist Pain? 8 Ways to Treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Health experts offer tips to get relief from carpal tunnel syndrome pain to help reduce the feeling of numbness on the wrist and hands.
Ways to treat carpal tunnel syndrome
If you have a desk job, chances are a great part of your day involves typing on a computer. At the end of the day, you notice your wrist and hands feel crampy, and you may even start to experience numbness. The combination of these symptoms could potentially lead to a carpal tunnel syndrome diagnosis.
In the general population, carpal tunnel pain affects approximately three to six percent of adults. Over time, symptoms can get worse, and doctors recommend you seek treatment soon. If caught early, carpal tunnel symptoms can be alleviated by wearing a wrist splint or avoiding activities that can trigger wrist pain, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
To find what works for carpal tunnel relief, we spoke with a few medical experts who offer their tips for better pain management.
Take a break
If you’re feeling carpal tunnel pain, temporarily stop what you’re doing. “Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that occurs when the median nerve is compressed as it travels from the forearm through the bones and ligaments that make up the carpal tunnel and into the wrist and hand,” says Sara Tomaszewski, MD, clinical instructor in the physical therapy and rehabilitation sciences department at Drexel University in Philadelphia. She explains, “It is a repetitive strain injury and typically comes as a result of repeated or prolonged activities that compress the carpal tunnel, such as typing with the wrists in poor alignment.” Taking frequent breaks during your workday, if you’re able, can give your body a break. Here are more ways to keep your hands pain-free at work.
Rearrange your desk
Computer use is a common culprit of carpal tunnel issues. You can help reduce your risk of carpal tunnel symptoms by setting up your desk area ergonomically. “Make sure your wrists are well supported, you aren’t having to reach forward for the mouse or keyboard, and your shoulders and elbows are resting in a comfortable position,” says Rachel Girrens, MD, of ICT Muscle & Joint Clinic in Wichita, Kansas. Your shoulders should not be shrugged and your elbows should be bent around 90 degrees as you type. Try these home remedies for carpal tunnel treatment that actually work.
Massage away the pain
When your wrist is feeling uncomfortable from carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms, massaging can be helpful, Dr. Girrens says. Gently rub the tendons at the base of your wrist with your thumb, whenever you feel pain. Also, learn more about self-massage techniques.
Stretch it out
These simple stretches relieve the pressure on your carpal tunnel and can be done anytime during the day. “Put your hand on a table or a wall with all the fingers and thumb spread out,” recommends Nick Buratovich, a naturopathic doctor and professor of naturopathic medicine at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine. “Lean your forearm forward over the back of your hand and apply downward (table) or forward (wall) pressure for several minutes several times a day.” Check out these other stretching exercises to de-stress at work.
Ice it up
Using ice several times a day may help relieve your carpal tunnel symptoms, Buratovich says. He recommends placing ice on the palm side of your wrist for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. Use a circular ice pack meant to cool off a wine bottle as a bracelet for easy icing.
Change up your diet
While many carpal tunnel relief tips focus on what you can change on the outside, it turns out your diet may play a part too. Dr. Girrens recommends taking a vitamin B supplement and adding whole, anti-inflammatory, and magnesium-rich foods to your diet. Find out these anti-inflammatory foods for fighting pain.
Wear a wrist splint
It can be cumbersome to wear a wrist splint during the day. Sleeping with one on at night is a good idea, according to Randy Hauck, MD, of the Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania. “A lot of people aggravate their symptoms at night because they don’t use a splint and they flex their wrist,” Dr. Hauck says, noting that that flexing can then make symptoms worse.
Consider a cortisone injection
“A lot of people get better with a cortisone injection,” Dr. Hauck says. “It’s been shown in a number of studies that cortisone can alleviate the symptoms for a while, but it depends on how severe your wrist pain is.” Relief from an injection can last up to three to six months. Ask your doctor if this is the best treatment for you.
- American Family Physician: “Carpal Tunnel Syndrome”
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: “Carpal Tunnel Syndrome”
- Sara Tomaszewski, MD, clinical instructor in the physical therapy and rehabilitation sciences department at Drexel University, Philadelphia
- Rachel Girrens, MD, DC, of ICT Muscle & Joint Clinic in Wichita, Kansas
- Nick Buratovich, ND, professor of naturopathic medicine at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, Tempe, Arizona
- Randy Hauck, MD, of the Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Hershey, Pennsylvania