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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treatments

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Treating carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel symptoms like wrist or finger pain, and numbness and tingling in the fingers, can sometimes be treated at home. Carpal tunnel treatment includes changing activities that are contributing to it, wearing a wrist splint, and taking OTC medications. It can take about 6 weeks of lifestyle changes and medications to feel better.

  • Lifestyle changes may include taking more frequent breaks if you work a lot with your hands (knitting, typing, carpentry).
  • OTC anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve) can help pain by reducing irritation of the nerve that causes carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Wear a brace: Night splints can be worn while you sleep to keep the wrist straight while you sleep. This lowers the chance of putting the wrist in a position that puts pressure on the nerve.

People with moderate to severe symptoms may need prescription NSAIDs and physical therapy. Some may benefit from a cortisone injection into their wrist. Cortisone reduces inflammation around the irritated nerve.

Carpal tunnel treatment next steps

Carpal tunnel syndrome can usually be treated at home, but if you still have symptoms after 6 weeks of home treatment, you should see a hand specialist. Also see a doctor if you have more serious symptoms like weakness in the hand and fingers, wasting of the thumb muscles in the palm of the hand, or difficulty with fine motor tasks.

It’s important to get treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome because continued pressure on the nerve may lead to more permanent damage or not as good results from surgery.

Carpal tunnel symptoms can also be confused with other causes of hand pain and numbness, like a pinched nerve in your neck.

Go to the ER if any of these symptoms are severe: pain and swelling, numbness and tingling in the fingers, and weakness of the fingers (especially after a fall or other trauma to the hand and wrist).

Medical tests & labs

Your doctor may diagnose and treat carpal tunnel syndrome without testing. But if treatments aren’t helping, you may need a closer evaluation. Your doctor may use special tools to test the sensation in your fingers.

In some cases, a nerve test called an electromyogram (EMG) may be necessary if the cause of your symptoms is not clear. This test can help determine if your pain and numbness/tingling are coming from nerve pressure in your wrist or from a different location such as your neck.

Depending on the results, a doctor will discuss with you what medications you should try and other ways to treat the problem.

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