How do I Choose the Best Treatment for Carpal Tunnel in the Wrist?

K. Testa

Many people suffer from carpal tunnel in the wrist. Choosing the best treatment usually depends on whether the symptoms are mild, moderate, or severe. Most people get a diagnosis and then consider their treatment options. Some standard therapies include conservative remedies such as wrist splinting and steroid injections, but sometimes symptoms can only be relieved with surgery. Those who see no results from conservative options and who want to avoid surgery may seek alternative types of therapies. It usually helps to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each type of treatment in order to choose the best one.

Individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome may experience numbness or tingling sensation in the fingers.
Individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome may experience numbness or tingling sensation in the fingers.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition caused by pressure on the median nerve in the wrist. Typical symptoms include pain, numbness, and tingling in the wrists, hands, or fingers. Several other medical conditions can cause similar symptoms, however, so doctors usually perform tests to diagnose carpal tunnel in the wrist. Often, they examine factors such as one’s hand strength and range of motion.

Typing can cause carpal tunnel syndrome if done incorrectly.
Typing can cause carpal tunnel syndrome if done incorrectly.

For mild to moderate carpal tunnel in the wrist, physicians often prescribe wrist splints that one wears while sleeping at night. They are frequently worn during the day as well. Their purpose is to stabilize the hand and wrist. The splints are not too obtrusive, and people can usually wear them while working or performing other physical activities.

Over-the-counter painkillers can help with pain from carpal tunnel syndrome.
Over-the-counter painkillers can help with pain from carpal tunnel syndrome.

Different forms of exercise can also be beneficial for treating carpal tunnel in the wrist. Occupational therapy usually focuses on manipulating the wrist’s nerves or tendons. Physical therapy is another option, with treatments that can include hydrotherapy or ultrasound therapy. Certain types of exercise, such as yoga, can also help stretch and strengthen ones hands and wrists. Many people with carpal tunnel syndrome find that a combination of two or more of these treatments may be more beneficial than just one.

Splints can help alleviate the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Splints can help alleviate the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Other conservative treatments for carpal tunnel in the wrist include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These are usually taken as either prescription or over-the-counter oral medications. Injected steroids are yet another remedy to consider, when other types of medication do not relieve the carpal tunnel symptoms.

Doctors often suggest a combination of conservative therapies for maximum potential benefit before advising carpal tunnel surgery. According to many physicians, the best candidates for surgery are usually older and have recurring symptoms that are not relieved at all or that return after trying other treatments. Many surgery candidates have significant nerve damage as well. For moderate to severe carpal tunnel in the wrist, the two most common options are open or endoscopic surgery. Both procedures require incisions, yet they differ in the amount of trauma to the area as well as in the recovery time.

There are a number of alternative remedies for treating carpal tunnel in the wrist. Some examples include vitamin B6 creams or oral supplements, acupuncture, and chiropractic therapy. Few of these procedures have been proven effective by scientific research, yet many people choose to try different treatment options to alleviate their symptoms and to avoid surgery.

Acupuncture may help relieve the pain associated with carpal tunnel.
Acupuncture may help relieve the pain associated with carpal tunnel.

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