Carpal tunnel syndrome, a nerve condition, may often cause numbness, pain, and tingling sensations in hands and fingers. You may try the home remedies for carpal tunnel syndrome discussed in the article to relieve the symptoms. These remedies may help minimize the pain and uncomfortable sensations up to a certain extent. They may also help strengthen the hands and relieve pressure. You may consult a doctor and try them along with medications. Keep reading to learn more about them.
In This Article
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: What Is It?
Carpal tunnel syndrome or CTS is a type of medical condition in which the median nerve gets pinched or compressed. The median nerve is one of the three major nerves that run through your upper limbs. When this nerve gets pinched or compressed while passing through a narrow space called the carpal tunnel in your wrist, you get carpal tunnel syndrome.
It most commonly affects the hands or the wrist, but your elbow or shoulder region may be affected by carpal tunnel syndrome as well. The tendons that affect the movement of the thumb and the first three fingers also pass through the carpal tunnel, so compression in the median affects them as well. It has a few commonly reported symptoms as listed below (1).
- pain in the hand or wrist
- a tingling sensation
- reduced grip strength and hand functionality
A pre-existing medical condition like hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes may put you at a higher risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Repetitive hand movements may also lead to carpal tunnel syndrome (1).
Now that we know what carpal tunnel syndrome is and what leads to it, let’s see what home remedies for carpal tunnel can bring you relief.
Home Remedies For Carpal Tunnel Relief
There are certain things you can do at home for carpal tunnel pain relief. Generally, the sooner you are aware of how to help carpal tunnel, the better the chances of recovery.
- Wear Wrist Splints Or Braces
Wrist splints or braces are commonly recommended by doctors as a carpal tunnel remedy for mild to moderate cases. It can help to hold your wrists in a neutral position and provide relief as well as keep the symptoms from worsening. You can wear braces to bed as that would prevent you from bending your wrist in your sleep. In case you engage in daily activities that flare up your triggers, you can wear it during the daytime as well. It generally takes between 3 to 4 weeks for the symptoms to improve (2).
- Do Nerve Gliding Exercises
The evidence on the effectiveness of nerve gliding exercises is a little unclear due to the lack of quality trials and studies. However, a research review suggests that there is a positive trend between symptomatic carpal tunnel relief and nerve gliding exercises (3). There are various nerve gliding exercises you can do if you want to treat carpal tunnel at home. Here’s one that you can practice.
- Keep your wrist in a neutral position and make a relaxed fist with the back of your thumb facing you.
- Open your fist and extend your fingers and thumbs forward while maintaining a neutral position for your wrist.
- Keep your fingers and thumbs straight and turn your wrist so that your palm faces upwards.
- Hold your hand in the same position and extend your thumb outwards and away from your hand.
- Now, keeping your fingers as they are, turn your palm so that it faces away from you.
- With your free hand, gently tug at the thumb to pull it down.
- Hold each of these positions for 5 seconds and repeat all the steps between 3 and 5 times.
- Be Aware Of Your Posture
When you bend your shoulders forward too much, you can trigger a chain reaction to worsen your carpal tunnel syndrome. A study suggested that correction of posture may be used as a potential treatment for carpal tunnel, even though it could not find a direct correlation (4). Be aware of how you sit or stand and keep your shoulders rolled back and as straight as possible.
There is some evidence to suggest that keeping your wrists in non-neutral positions for prolonged periods may increase the risk as well as the severity of carpal tunnel syndrome (5). So, try to ensure that you are holding your wrist in the neutral position as much as possible.
- Get Some Gentle Stretches With Yoga
There is some research-based evidence to suggest that yoga may help to ease the pain associated with carpal tunnel syndrome and improve grip strength. Yoga postures that help to mobilize the shoulders, neck, hands, and wrist may be beneficial. The gentle stretching that you get with yoga may help to relieve the compression on the carpal tunnel. It may also improve blood flow and joint posture, both of which can have a positive effect on carpal tunnel treatment (6).
- Apply Topical Pain Relief Gels/Creams On Affected Area
In a study on workers with carpal tunnel syndrome, researchers found that the application of topical menthol could significantly lower the pain during the workday (7). There is evidence from another study suggesting that flaxseed oil-based topical gels can also significantly reduce pain and make the symptoms manageable (8). So you slather on either a menthol-based or a flaxseed-based pain relief gel when your triggers flare up and cause you pain.
- Use A Low-level Heat Wrap
Research has found that a low-level heat wrap is effective in reducing pain quickly, improving grip and function when used as a home remedy for carpal tunnel (9). To make a heat wrap at home, follow these steps:
- Fill an old, but clean sock with rice or oatmeal.
- Sew or tie it up.
- Pop the filled sock in the microwave and heat it for 1-2 minutes.
- Before you wrap it around your wrist or affected area, make sure the heat is bearable for you.
- Keep the heat wrap on as long as you feel comfortable.
Sometimes, even if you know how to treat carpal tunnel at home, you may have to resort to medication. Let’s see what over-the-counter medicine you can take to help you alleviate the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Over-the-counter Medications To Help Carpal Tunnel Symptoms
Aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen are the most common non-prescription medications that you can get from a pharmacy for treating carpal tunnel syndrome at home. These generally provide temporary relief and long-term or repeated use is not recommended (1). It is also important to be cautious about using aspirin if you take any blood thinner as a prescription drug (10).
Carpal tunnel may lead to complications, so it is important to know when to stop trying to treat it on your own and consult a medical professional.
When To See The Doctor?
Home remedies for carpal tunnel may not be effective for all. If you have tried these home remedies and are finding your symptoms worsening or not improving within one or two weeks, you should seek medical help. You may visit your general physician or directly make an appointment with an orthopedic doctor who specializes in the treatment of joints, bones, and muscles.
Diagnosis Of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
When you visit the doctor, you may be asked a list of questions to determine whether or not you have the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. This step is followed up with a decision tree which helps to identify whether further investigation is required or not (1).
The doctor may also conduct a physical examination which includes the flick sign, Phalen test, and median nerve compression test. In certain irregular cases, you may be asked to undergo ultrasonography or electrodiagnostic studies to rule out other possible causes for your symptoms (11).
You may be wondering whether the doctor will recommend surgery or not in case you do have carpal tunnel syndrome. Let’s see if the carpal tunnel can be treated without surgical intervention.
Does Carpal Tunnel Go Away Without Surgery?
Mild to moderate cases of carpal tunnel may be effectively managed with non-surgical treatments that include splints and corticosteroid injections. Surgery is only recommended by doctors when such therapies are unsuccessful even after six months or when it is a case of severe carpal tunnel syndrome (11).
To summarize, carpal tunnel syndrome is a medical condition that presents as a numbing sensation, pain, or tingling in the hand or the wrist. The symptoms appear because the median nerve passing through the carpal tunnel in the arm and wrist gets compressed or pinched. Common home remedies for carpal tunnel include splints, heat wraps, topical pain relief gel, improved posture and wrist, and arm exercises. Some over-the-counter drugs may also help to manage the associated pain. Mild to moderate carpal tunnel syndrome may be resolved with home remedies and conservative treatment while severe cases may require surgery for long-term relief.
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- Diagnosing and managing carpal tunnel syndrome in primary care
- Efficacy of a soft hand brace and a wrist splint for carpal tunnel syndrome: a randomized controlled study
- Effectiveness of Nerve Gliding Exercises on Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: A Systematic Review
- Increased forward head posture and restricted cervical range of motion in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome
- Meta-Analysis: Association Between Wrist Posture and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Among Workers
- Yoga-Based Intervention for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Acute Effect of Topical Menthol on Chronic Pain in Slaughterhouse Workers with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: \’Triple-Blind\’ Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial
- A Topical Gel From Flax Seed Oil Compared With Hand Splint in Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: A Randomized Clinical Trial
- Continuous low-level heat wrap therapy is effective for treating wrist pain
- Association of Adding Aspirin to Warfarin Therapy Without an Apparent Indication With Bleeding and Other Adverse Events
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Diagnosis and Management