Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is an unpleasant and often debilitating cause of hand pain that occurs when the median nerve in the hand is compressed. The carpal tunnel is the small passageway where the median nerve (which provides feeling to the thumb and the first three fingers) crosses from the wrist into the palm.
When this nerve is compressed, usually due to swelling in the tunnel, it causes the numbness, tingling, and hand pain often associated with carpal tunnel.
If you are unlucky enough to be battling with carpal tunnel syndrome, then you know how painful this seemingly minor-sounding condition can be. Hand pain can limit the ability to work, cook dinner, or relax with a favorite book. The tingling and numbness can range from annoying to unlivable: most people use their hands all day every day, and losing that sense of touch or the ability to pinch can make beloved (or even not-so-beloved) activities unbearable.
Carpal tunnel pain can even occur at rest, an extra irritation that exactly no one asked for.
Like many “minor” health conditions, it affects quality of life in a big way, so you are not alone if you’re at the end of your rope.
When gearing up to fight carpal tunnel pain, it’s good to understand your enemy. Carpal tunnel is the result of inflammation, so the goal is to reduce that inflammation, and take the pressure off of your precious median nerve. Here are our favorite doctor-approved ways to do just that!
Five FAST Ways to Fight Carpal Tunnel Pain
An absolute must for reducing inflammation, these gloves stop swelling with gentle compression. They can increase mobility and reduce pain, and can often be worn during carpal tunnel-inducing activities like answering work emails or redeeming Old Navy Super Cash. They can even be worn overnight for maximum pain relief!
Wondering where to start with all the many options for compression gloves? Think about your day-to-day activities. A basic pair can be perfect for overnight and comfort. Copper compression works for reducing inflammation and odor. And there are even textured gloves to help maintain a grip for biking, weight-lifting, or myriad other activities!
Still have questions? We put together a guide on why compression gloves might just be your perfect match.
Carpal Tunnel Wrist Brace
This brace keeps your wrist stable and supported!
Carpal tunnel often occurs from repetitive stress injuries, so wearing a brace while typing, holding a book, or unloading boxes in a warehouse can keep the wrist from inflaming. Similarly, a splint or brace that keeps the wrist from bending can be extremely useful!
And, as a bonus, many of these braces are waterproof and sweatproof - so you can continue every day activities without worrying about damaging the product.
Stretching can help carpal tunnel pain by providing gentle reduction in inflammation. Just like stretching sore muscles after a workout, stretching the wrist or hands can help loosen up the tightness putting pressure on the median nerve.
Just make sure to trust your body, and always stop a stretch if the pain gets worse.
Here’s a few places to start:
- Use small weights (1-3lb - or a can of soup!) to stretch and strengthen your wrists. Stand up straight, arms at sides, weights in hands. Raise your arms out to the sides until they are parallel to the floor. Hold this position for 5 seconds (if possible). Repeat 10 times.
- Hold your arms straight out in front of you, palms facing out and fingers pointed up, and then gently pull back on the fingers/palm. Hold for 5 seconds (if possible). Repeat 10-15 times for each hand. You can also flip this and point the hand/fingers toward the floor.
Sometimes at-home remedies just won’t do it, and you’ll need reinforcements. Steroid injections are given in the wrist, and the steroid goes to work immediately reducing inflammation in the wrist (though it can take a few weeks to fully reduce the swelling). This is an easy outpatient procedure often done in the doctor's office - and they'll usually numb the area first, don't worry!
If the above options are unsuccessful, then surgery might be the only option to banish carpal tunnel pain once and for all. This is a relatively easy procedure, where a surgeon cuts the carpal ligament and releases the pressure on the nerve. It is usually done with a local anesthesia, and does not require a hospital stay.
The recovery time can be a few months, during which the patient will have limited use of the hand, followed by physical therapy to help improve mobility. However, this surgery can be a huge relief for carpal tunnel sufferers, especially if over-the-counter remedies are no longer successful.
There you go! These are some carpal-tunnel-butt-kicking things you can do to help improve mobility and destroy unwelcome hand pain. Because you deserve to get back to the original you!
Written by: Jess Kryzczkowski
Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Ben Frederick