What Are Carpal Tunnel Supports?

C. K. Lanz

Carpal tunnel supports are immobilizing braces with splints worn to keep the wrists straight and alleviate pressure on the median nerve in the carpal tunnel. Relieving this pressure can, over time, reduce and even eliminate the pain and numbness associated with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). Although some people may be reluctant to wear carpal tunnel supports because of discomfort or concerns about appearance, the therapy is generally successful at controlling intermittent symptoms without surgery or medication. Carpal tunnel supports are often worn at night or during the activity thought to trigger symptoms.

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.

Most carpal tunnel supports are secured via Velcro straps and contain a splint that holds the wrist still. The material is often breathable and lightweight. The braces are typically black or beige, although a variety of colors are available. It is important to size the wrist correctly before wearing the splint for long periods of time to ensure proper immobilization.

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

People with mild or moderate symptoms are the typical candidates for carpal tunnel supports. The supports are often worn at night during sleep but can also be worn during the activity believed to trigger symptoms. This activity is usually repetitive such as typing at a computer but many cases of CTS are idiopathic or of unknown cause.

Medical professionals usually suggest that patients wear the braces at night for several reasons. Patients are generally reluctant to wear them during the day in public or find them uncomfortable. Additionally, people often hold their wrists in a twisted position while sleeping which can worsen symptoms.

Relief is not immediate when using carpal tunnel supports. Patients may have to wear the braces for up to ten weeks before the effectiveness of this treatment can be properly assessed. The braces are not usually worn every night, but should be worn at least several nights a week depending on the persistence of pain.

Carpal tunnel supports are available from health care providers, online or at many drugstores. They are generally inexpensive depending on the material and size. For patients with mild or moderate symptoms, braces can be a noninvasive and effective treatment for CTS.

In addition to carpal tunnel supports, treatment options for CTS include surgery, physical therapy and medications. Mild symptoms can be controlled with frequent breaks and applying cold packs. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids can also be used to relieve pain. In severe cases, a surgeon will cut the ligament pressing on the median nerve by making an incision in the wrist.

The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway on the palm side of the wrist that protects a main nerve to the hand. When the nerve is compressed, numbness, pain and hand weakness result. If left untreated, the condition can progress until symptoms are constant and nerve and muscle damage develop. People with persistent wrist pain, hand numbness and weakness that causes them to drop objects should consult a medical professional.

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

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