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Typical treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome, a common condition affecting the wrist, can cause pain, numbness, and tingling sensations in the hand
carpal
Photo credit: Shutterstock.com / JPC-PROD

Carpal tunnel syndrome, a common condition affecting the wrist, can cause pain, numbness, and tingling sensations in the hand. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, understanding the typical treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome is crucial. Fortunately, various approaches can effectively manage the condition and improve your quality of life.


Understanding carpal tunnel syndrome: A pinched nerve

Carpal tunnel syndrome arises when the median nerve, located in the wrist, becomes compressed. This compression often occurs due to swelling within the carpal tunnel, a narrow passageway in your wrist formed by bones and ligaments. Activities that involve repetitive wrist movements or certain medical conditions can contribute to this swelling.


When to seek treatment

Early diagnosis and treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome are essential. If you experience persistent pain, numbness, or tingling in your thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of your ring finger, consult a healthcare professional. They can perform a physical examination and possibly recommend tests like nerve conduction studies to confirm the diagnosis.

Non-surgical treatments: The first line of defense

In most cases, carpal tunnel syndrome can be effectively managed without surgery. Here’s a look at some common non-surgical treatments:


  • Wrist splinting: Wearing a splint, particularly at night, helps keep your wrist in a neutral position. This reduces pressure on the median nerve and alleviates nighttime symptoms like tingling and numbness. Splinting may also benefit daytime symptoms.

  • Anti-inflammatory medications: Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen can help reduce inflammation and provide short-term pain relief. However, they don’t address the underlying cause of carpal tunnel syndrome.

  • Corticosteroid injections: A healthcare professional may inject a corticosteroid medication directly into the carpal tunnel. Corticosteroids reduce inflammation and swelling, offering significant pain relief. This treatment is usually effective for several months, but repeated injections may not be advisable due to potential side effects.

  • Activity modification: Identifying and modifying activities that aggravate your symptoms can significantly improve your condition. An occupational therapist can help you adjust your workstation ergonomics or recommend alternative techniques to perform tasks that strain your wrists.

  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist can design a personalized exercise program to strengthen the muscles around your wrist and improve flexibility. These exercises can help improve wrist function and reduce pain.

Lifestyle changes: Maintaining a healthy weight, reducing your sodium intake, and avoiding smoking can all contribute to managing carpal tunnel syndrome.

When surgery becomes necessary

If non-surgical treatments fail to provide sufficient relief, or if you have severe carpal tunnel syndrome with significant weakness or wasting of the thumb muscles, surgery might be recommended. Carpal tunnel release surgery involves dividing the ligament that forms the roof of the carpal tunnel, creating more space for the median nerve. This is a minimally invasive procedure typically performed on an outpatient basis.

Recovery and prevention tips

Following surgery, you’ll likely need to wear a splint for a short period and participate in physical therapy to regain strength and flexibility in your wrist. Complete recovery from carpal tunnel surgery can take several weeks or months.

Here are some additional tips to help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome or manage existing symptoms:

  • Maintain good posture: Ensure proper wrist alignment while working at a computer or performing other activities.

  • Take frequent breaks: When engaging in repetitive hand movements, take short breaks to stretch your wrists and hands.

  • Maintain a healthy weight: Obesity can contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome.

  • Strengthen your forearms: Exercises that strengthen the muscles in your forearms can help improve wrist stability.

By understanding the typical treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome and taking preventive measures, you can effectively manage this condition and maintain optimal hand and wrist function. Remember, consulting a health care professional for diagnosis and treatment is crucial for a successful recovery.

This story was created using AI technology.

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