5 Treatment Options For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Numbness, pain, and tingling in your hand can be due to carpal tunnel syndrome. This is a medical condition that causes the median nerve in your wrist to be compressed. The median nerve and other tendons like flexor tendons, which run from the forearm to the hands through the carpal tunnel, enable you to flex your wrist and fingers. The carpal tunnel is a small space in your wrist that’s bound by ligaments and carpal bones.
If you’re suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, there are various treatment options you can look into. Although it’s possible to manage the symptoms of this medical condition at home, severe symptoms may require surgery. To get more information, visit this page and keep reading to discover the different treatment options for carpal tunnel syndrome.
1. Wrist Brace
A wrist brace works by keeping your wrist in a neutral or straight position. Using it at night can give you relief from carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms without using other treatments.
You may also find it beneficial to wear a wrist brace during the day, particularly during activities that may trigger flare-ups. Extra strain or repeated motions on your wrist can make the symptoms worse. If possible, wear a wrist brace even when you’re at work.
Once you take the brace off, make sure to keep moving your wrist as you typically would. This’ll help keep your muscles strong and loose. Just avoid too much force or stress on your wrist.
If you’re wondering where to get a wrist brace—also referred to as a splint—you can check any of the drugstores in your area. An occupational therapist may also make one for you. When you start using the brace, you want it to be snug but not very tight. See to it that you don’t put more pressure on your carpal tunnel.
Generally, a wrist brace may work depending on your symptoms. People who use a wrist brace often experience less tingling, numbing, and burning sensation in their wrists. However, it’s crucial to note that there’s no such thing as a perfect brace. If you can, try various brands to determine which would work best for your circumstances.
2. Steroid Injection
Another treatment option to beat carpal tunnel syndrome is steroid injections. Injecting steroids into the area around the median nerve would help shrink the structures surrounding the nerve, which may reduce pressure on it.
Typically, a steroid injection is done at a clinic and has no major side effects. Patients may also manage the pain caused by carpal tunnel syndrome through this treatment.
If your symptoms don’t respond to other treatments or are quite severe, you’ll need to undergo surgery. This involves cutting the ligaments pressing on the nerve to relieve pressure.
Basically, the surgery can be done using two different techniques:
- Open Surgery – The surgeon makes an incision in your palm over the carpal tunnel and cuts the ligament to free the median nerve.
- Endoscopic Surgery – The surgeon uses an endoscope to see the inside of your carpal tunnel. Then, they’ll cut the ligament through incisions in your wrist or hand. Other surgeons may use ultrasound rather than an endoscope while cutting the ligament. Endoscopic surgery may cause less pain than open surgery.
To prepare yourself for the surgery, discuss the benefits and risks of each technique with your surgeon. Some surgery risks may include:
- Injuries to the blood vessels or nerves
- Scar formation
- Wound infection
- Incomplete release of the ligaments
During the healing process, the tissues of your ligaments will gradually grow back together while providing more room for the nerve. Usually, this internal healing process takes a few months, but the skin should heal in several weeks.
Generally, the surgeon will encourage you to use your hand once your ligament is healed. This’ll help you avoid extreme wrist positions or forceful hand motions. Weakness or soreness may take a few weeks or months to dissipate after the surgery. If your symptoms are severe, they may not go away completely even after surgery.
4. Physical Therapy
Physical therapists are medical professionals who can work with you to lessen your pain and help you regain mobility and strength. Just make sure to find one who specializes in hand physical therapy to help you deal with carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms.
More often than not, hand physical therapists can recommend gliding exercises, which focus on tendons and nerves. The primary goal of such exercises is to help increase mobility and reduce pain.
While some therapists suggest a brace, others may recommend the following:
- The use of a special hand traction device, which makes your carpal tunnel area bigger through stretching
- The use of high-frequency vibrations through ultrasound to reduce the symptoms
- Possible changes you can make to lessen the symptoms during your leisure time, at home, or at work
For some orthopedic conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome, the best results from physical therapy can be achieved if you start rehab as soon as you experience the symptoms. The longer you delay physical therapy, the more chronic your health condition may become and the less likely you’ll have a successful outcome. Therefore, if you notice symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, consult your physician immediately and ask to be referred to the best local physical therapy clinic.
If you’re already experiencing severe symptoms, it’s still a good idea to hire a physical therapist for the sake of getting relief. There are severe cases that respond favorably to physical therapy.
If your severe symptoms don’t abate within several weeks, you might need to seek invasive treatments like surgery or steroid injections. If you’ve undergone carpal tunnel surgery, you may consider physical therapy as your post-surgery rehab. Usually, it starts three or four weeks after surgery and may entail the following:
- Treatments to lessen pain and swelling
- Progressive strengthening exercises
- A gentle progressive range of motion exercises
- Scar tissue massage
To get results while recovering, always discuss your symptoms with your physical therapist. This is especially true if you’ve tried other treatments before.
5. Alternative Medicine
Some people with carpal tunnel syndrome have experienced results from trying complementary or alternative medicine. This option includes the following:
- Ultrasound Therapy – It uses sound waves to raise the temperature in your wrist and hand. The heat may help with healing and relieve pain.
- Chiropractic Care – Patients who don’t want to undergo surgery may opt for chiropractic care. Consult the best chiropractor in your area regarding your symptoms.
A good chiropractor has specialized knowledge regarding nerve entrapment. In most cases, spine manipulation helps resolve subluxations, which can improve your joint’s mobility down the arm and through the shoulders and wrist.
- Yoga – Practicing several wrist-specific yoga poses can help heal the swollen tissues around the carpal tunnel. Moreover, yoga warm-up exercises increase the blood flow in your fingertips, hands, and wrists.
Yoga practices also boost the health of your peripheral nerves. Such advantages of yoga make it an effective remedy for carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Oral Corticosteroids – They may help ease the symptoms and reduce inflammation. Corticosteroids offer a stronger anti-inflammatory effect compared to other medications.
However, they should be prescribed by a physician and taken only as directed. Such medications may cause various side effects, including weight gain, nausea, headaches, and insomnia.
- Workplace Changes – These may include reducing repetitive motions and improving your ergonomics. For assembly workers, a shift in assigned duties or more frequent breaks would be beneficial.
For some office workers, it may involve the use of a supportive mousepad or an ergonomic keyboard. But take note that there isn’t much evidence showing that modifying computer equipment may relieve or prevent the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Symptoms Of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The following symptoms tend to happen gradually, so be mindful of them if you want to get treatment as early as possible:
- Numbness Or Tingling
You may notice numbness and tingling in your hand or fingers. Typically, the thumb as well as the index, ring, and middle fingers are affected, but not your pinky.
You might also feel a sensation like electric shocks in those fingers. The sensation may travel from your wrist through your arms. Such symptoms often happen while holding a newspaper, phone, or steering wheel.
To relieve those symptoms, you can shake out your hands. The numb feeling may become constant or persistent in the long run, so immediate treatment is a must.
Your hand may weaken, causing you to drop objects all of a sudden. It may be due to your hand’s numbness or the weakness of the pinching muscles of your thumb, which are controlled by your median nerve.
Causes Of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
When left untreated, carpal tunnel syndrome may damage your median nerve and other muscles. There are some factors that play a role in causing carpal tunnel syndrome, such as the following:
- Women are prone to carpal tunnel syndrome since their carpal tunnel is smaller than men. Also, there can be a hereditary component as the condition may run in families.
- Bone spurs or wrist injuries may create more pressure on the nerve, narrowing the space in your carpal tunnel.
- Chronic illnesses like alcoholism and diabetes can damage your median nerve. Thyroid hormone imbalance, rheumatoid arthritis, and other inflammatory conditions may also result in inflammation around the carpal tunnel area, which can put more pressure on the median nerve.
- Thyroid conditions, menopause, obesity, and pregnancy may increase median nerve pressure because of increased fluid retention pressure, thus raising the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome. Basically, in some cases of pregnant women with carpal tunnel syndrome, this condition is usually resolved after they give birth.
Several work factors may also lead to median nerve damage and irritation. An example is prolonged use of work computers with poor wrist and hand placement on the mouse and keyboard.
People who often work with vibrating tools and have to repeatedly flex their wrists may be at risk of experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome as well. Although it’s difficult to say that such workplace factors will and can cause carpal tunnel syndrome, taking precautions is essential to prevent the condition.
How To Know If You Have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
First and foremost, your doctor will examine you and discuss your medical history as well as your symptoms. Some of the tests performed are:
- X-Rays – These are necessary if there’s limited wrist motion, trauma, or evidence of arthritis.
- Phalen Test – Patients rest their elbows on the table and enable the wrist to fall forward freely. People with carpal tunnel syndrome will experience tingling and numbness in the fingers within a minute. The most quickly the symptoms appear, the more severe the condition.
- Tinel’s Sign – In this type of test, your doctor will tap over your median nerve to see if it causes a tingling sensation in your fingers.
- Nerve Conduction Studies And Electromyography (EMG) – These determine how your median nerve is working and how well it controls the movement of your muscles.
Tips To Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Although there aren’t any proven strategies to completely prevent this condition, you can reduce stress on your wrist and hands with these tips:
- Keep Your Hands Warm
If you’re working in a cold environment, you’re more likely to suffer from stiffness and hand pain. If you can’t control your workplace’s temperature, wear fingerless gloves to keep your wrists and hands warm.
- Take Breaks
Gently bend and stretch your wrists and hands periodically. You can also do carpal tunnel relief exercises at your desk. This is especially advisable if you’re using equipment that vibrates or requires a huge amount of force. Taking breaks even a few minutes in every hour can make a difference.
- Relax Your Grip And Reduce Your Force
If your job involves a keyboard or cash register, hit the keys slowly and softly. If you do handwriting tasks for several hours, use a large pen with a soft grip and free-flowing ink.
- Pay Attention To Your Form
Don’t bend your wrist too much—a middle position is best. If possible, keep your keyboard slightly lower than or at elbow height.
While certain stretches, lifestyle measures, and exercises can help lessen strain and pressure on the wrist in moderate or mild cases, medical treatments are still recommended when it comes to carpal tunnel syndrome. However, if you’re not sure which is best suited for your condition, consult your doctor first before you consider any of the treatment options discussed above.