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5 Tips to Treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Find out what carpal tunnel syndrome is, how it’s diagnosed, and 5 tips to treat it without surgery.

By
Sanaz Majd, MD,
Episode #082

How is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Diagnosed?

If you are experiencing symptoms of CTS, your doctor will perform an exam to confirm it.  This will involve holding your hands in certain positions, and typically this is sufficient.  Sometimes a special test called a “nerve conduction study” is performed. During this test, special probes are placed on your arm and your nerves will be tested individually to confirm that indeed it is the median nerve causing all the chaos.

5 Tips to Treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

For most people, some simple measures are sufficient to help alleviate CTS once it’s diagnosed.  Here are 5 Quick and Dirty Tips to halt your CTS in its tracks:

1.  Use a Splint:  A wrist splint designed for CTS (that can often be found in drug stores and sporting goods stores) is often the first line of defense.  The splint keeps the wrist in a straight and neutral position.  This is an important part of the healing process for the inflamed band surrounding the median nerve, since bending the wrist compresses the wrist and inflames the nerve. I tell my patients to wear this at least for a month, and even at bedtime, when symptoms are often worse.

2.  Rest Your Wrist:  Try to refrain from sleeping on your forearm and wrist, or engaging in the repetitive activities that initially caused your symptoms.  If you bead or knit, give it a break for a couple of months.  If you need to type for work, ask your Human Resources department to evaluate your work station and make sure you are using it properly.  

3.  Anti-inflammatories:  Your doctor may prescribe a course of anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen, to help calm down the nerve for a specified time period.  It can also help with the pain and swelling.  Please be aware that people who have stomach ulcers or take blood thinners can’t take anti-inflammatories.  Ask your doctor if it’s okay for you to take these.

4.  Physical Therapy:  If steps 1-3 aren’t working, your doctor may suggest physical or occupational therapy.

5.  Cortisone Injections:  Sometimes a cortisone injection can help alleviate CTS symptoms.  That’s because cortisone is another type of anti-inflammatory that will help decrease inflammation, swelling, and pain. 

Surgery for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Surgery isn’t right for everyone.  In fact, it’s usually the last resort if all of the above measures fail.  But once your symptoms are so severe that nothing else is working, it may be time to consider surgery.  The surgeon will cut the thick band around the wrist, thereby relieving the pressure on the median nerve.  Most people require some physical therapy or certain exercises to do at home after the procedure.

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Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only.  This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider.  Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.

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Carpal Tunnel image courtesy of Shutterstock

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