Summary: The best way to treat carpal tunnel might or might not be surgery. Much will depend on your situation—your symptoms and your outlook. It might even depends on the underlying cause of your particular Carpal Tunnel Syndrome symptoms. In all likelihood, the best person to tell you how to proceed is going to be your doctor.
Finding the Best Ways to Treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
In many cases, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is treated with hand and wrist surgery—but what are the best ways to treat Carpal Tunnel before it gets to that point? After all, for many people, surgery is something of a last resort. Medical expenses can be rather high—even with robust insurance. Add to that the fact that surgery can be quite uncomfortable, even with a modest recovery time. Avoiding surgery to treat Carpal Tunnel is a pretty common endeavor.
Of course, you should trust your doctor in all this. Our article isn’t meant to replace the opinion of a medical professional. If a doctor says you need surgery, you likely need surgery, especially if multiple opinions are in agreement. In other words: listen to your doctor.
If your doctor agrees, there are some commonly attempted non-surgical treatments that might be able to help your carpal tunnel.
What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Before we start talking about ways to treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, it might be useful to discuss exactly what causes it. Essentially, there’s a small area in your wrist, called the carpal tunnel, through which your median nerve travels. Now, your median nerve is pretty important. It’s responsible for the operation and feeling of your thumb and a few of your fingers.
Broadly speaking, when pressure is put on that nerve—for any of a variety of reasons—it can cause the symptoms associated with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Usually what happens is that something causes inflammation in the tunnel and that’s what causes the nerves to begin acting a little wonky. In some cases, it’s the sheathing around the nerves that actually gets compressed.
In any cases, most of the issues have to do with stress on the nerve that travels through the carpal tunnel—hence the name.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can have a wide variety of underlying causes, and these are certainly important to talk to your surgeon or your doctor about. For example, the underlying causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome could include:
- Inflammatory illnesses or conditions
- Nerve-damaging conditions (including some chronic illnesses
However, the most commonly discussed underlying cause of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is repetitive motion. In many cases, this is discussed within an office setting, where someone diligently types away on a computer only to experience numbness or pain the hands.
Certainly, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome often manifests as that kind of discomfort: pain, numbness, or “pins and needles.”
How to Treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Of course, this brings us to our first tip for treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: eliminate (or reduce) repetitive motion. In some cases that might be easier said than done. After all, your livelihood might depend on that repetitive motion. It’s not like you can just stop going to work.
But you can make your work a little more ergonomic. There are plenty of tutorials on the healthiest ways to hold your hands. And there are many products that promise to improve your overall comfort—especially as it relates to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
The bottom line is that if there are things you can do to improve your situation at work, you should definitely do them—and do them as soon as possible.
Non Surgical Treatments
There are two major protocols for treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome that do not involve surgery. Those protocols include:
- Wrist splinting: Essentially, keeping your wrists in a splint or brace can help keep the “tunnel” open, thereby decreasing inflammation over time. It’s possible that wearing wrist splints will diminish symptoms, though it may not solve the underlying issue.
- Pain Relief: There are several pain relief medications a doctor may recommend. In many cases, doctors will recommend something over the counter, such as Advil or other NSAID medications. In other cases, your doctor may prescribe a corticosterioid to help you manage pain. These may be the best alternative if you are experiencing a short term flare up.
Surgery Might be the Best Option
Many patients don’t want to think about surgery on the wrist, but it might actually be the best option, especially if you want permanent results. According to the website of the Houston Carpal Tunnel surgeons at Clear Lake Hand Center, surgery is usually designed to give the median nerve a little more room to breath (figuratively speaking) by doing what it can to make the tunnel larger.
In any case, if you’re experiencing numbness or pain in your hand—especially on a regular basis—you should consult with your doctor in order to determine what the best approach might be for you.