The goal of treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome is to allow you to return to your normal function and activities and to prevent nerve damage and loss of muscle strength in your fingers and hand. Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome is based on the seriousness of the condition, whether there is any nerve damage, and whether other treatment has helped. If your symptoms are mild, 1 to 2 weeks of home treatment are likely to relieve your symptoms.
Home treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome:
– Can ease pain and prevent further or permanent damage to your median nerve.
– May completely relieve your symptoms if you start treatment when symptoms first occur.
– If you have mild symptoms, such as occasional tingling, numbness, weakness, or pain in your fingers or hand, follow these steps to reduce inflammation:
- Rest your fingers, hand, and wrist. Stop activities that you think may be causing numbness and pain.
- When your symptoms improve, resume the activity gradually. As you do, keep your wrists straight or only slightly bent.
- Ice your wrist for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, once or twice an hour.
- Consider taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to relieve pain and reduce swelling. Studies haven’t shown NSAIDs to be effective for carpal tunnel syndrome, but they may help relieve your symptoms. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
- Wear a wrist splint at night to keep your wrist in a neutral position and relieve pressure on your median nerve.
- When your pain is gone, begin exercises for flexibility and strength for your arm and wrist. Learn the best positions and posture for hand and wrist movements.
To help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome:
- Take good care of your general health. This includes staying at a healthy weight, not smoking, and getting regular exercise.
- Keep your arm, hand, and finger muscles strong and flexible.
- Stop any activity that you think may be causing finger, hand, or wrist numbness or pain.
- Use hand and wrist movements that spread the pressure and motion evenly throughout your hand and wrist. For example, keep your wrists straight or only slightly bent. Avoid activities that bend or twist the wrists for long periods of time.
- Switch hands and change positions often when you are doing repeated motions. Take breaks, and rest your hands.
- Use correct posture.
- Restrict your salt intake if you tend to retain fluid.
- Wear a wrist splint when you cannot control your wrist motion, such as while sleeping. A splint can keep your wrist in a neutral position-that is, not bent too far forward or back-and reduce the stress on your fingers, hand, or wrist.
If you feel that certain work activities are causing finger, hand, or wrist numbness or pain, talk to your human resources department. Ask about different ways of doing your job, changes in your equipment, other job assignments, or the possibility of an ergonomics evaluation of your work space and procedures.
In daily routines at home or while doing hobbies, think about changing activities in which you make repeated finger, hand, or wrist movements. Train yourself to use other positions or techniques that won’t stress your hand or wrist.
Treatment options include:
- Home treatment, such as changing or avoiding activities that may be causing symptoms and wearing a wrist splint.
- Physical therapy. This includes ultrasound, stretching, and range-of-motion exercises. In some clinics, these therapies may be done by an occupational therapist.
- Medicines, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. In some cases, oral corticosteroids or corticosteroid injections into the carpal tunnel may be considered.
- Surgery. Surgery is sometimes recommended when other treatment hasn’t helped, if you’ve had carpal tunnel syndrome for a long time, or if there is nerve damage or the risk of nerve damage.
By starting with Physical Therapy and Home Treatments, most patients can avoid surgery altogether.