Carpal Tunnel Syndrome | Treatment

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How is carpal tunnel syndrome treated?

If carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by a medical problem (such as rheumatoid arthritis), your doctor will probably treat that problem first.

Your doctor may ask you to rest your wrist or change how you use your hand. He or she may also ask you to wear a splint on your wrist. The splint keeps your wrist from moving but lets your hand do most of what it normally does. A splint can help ease the pain of carpal tunnel syndrome, especially at night.

Putting ice on your wrist to reduce swelling, massaging the area and doing stretching exercises may also help. An over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can relieve swelling and pain. These medicines include aspirin, ibuprofen (brand names: Motrin, Advil) and naproxen (brand name: Aleve). In more severe cases, your doctor might inject your wrist with a corticosteroid, which reduces inflammation and pain.

Tips on relieving carpal tunnel syndrome

  • Prop up your arm with pillows when you lie down.
  • Avoid overusing the affected hand.
  • Find a new way to use your hand by using a different tool.
  • Try to use the unaffected hand more often.
  • Avoid holding your wrists in a downward bent position for long periods of time.

What if these treatments don't help?

In some cases, surgery is needed to make the symptoms go away completely. The surgery involves cutting the ligament that may be pressing on your median nerve. You'll usually get back the normal use of your wrist and hand within a few weeks to a few months after surgery.

Doing the hand, wrist and finger exercises that your doctor tells you to do after surgery is very important. Without exercise, your wrist may get stiff and you may lose some use of your hand.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 02/14
Created: 01/96

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