Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) occurs when the nerves that run through a small space in the wrist become compressed.
It’s a condition that can cause numbness, tingling, weakness, and other problems in your hand.
What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
The majority of people who suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome often have a combination of the following factors: (1)
- Pregnancy is generally accompanied by fluid retention, which can compress the nerve (this is usually only temporary)
- Wrist fractures can reduce the amount of space in the carpal tunnel
- Congenital factors that cause some people to be born with smaller carpal tunnel than others
- Overuse injury from awkward postures or repetitive hand movements.
Basically anything that causes inflammation or swelling can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms
The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include:
- Pins and needles
- Pain, particularly at night
- Darting pains from the wrist
- Radiated or referred pain into the arm and shoulder
- Weakness of the hand
How to Treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Make sure to treat your symptoms at home for 1-2 weeks before going to your doctor. It’s best to use these alternatives 2-4 times daily, as needed for carpal tunnel pain relief.
If you have a desk job or any hobby/job/profession that requires repetitive motion of the hands and wrists, but do not yet show signs of carpal tunnel pain, give this list a go. Perform these exercises, stretches, and therapies now to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome before it starts.1. Take Breaks from Repetitive Tasks
Repetitive tasks such as typing and playing instruments are some of the most common causes of carpal tunnel syndrome.
If you cannot avoid these tasks, set a timer at regular intervals of 15 minutes or so. Take a break and stretch your hands, wrists, and fingers. This will improve blood flow and give your median nerve a break. (2,3)
See also: anti inflammatory foods
2. Wear a Carpal Tunnel Splint
Carpal tunnel splints are usually designed to be worn at night. The splints are designed to hold your hand and wrist in a neutral position that relieves pressure from the median nerve.
In many cases, wearing a wrist splint while sleeping is enough to provide pain relief. Should you feel the need to wear the splint during the day, make sure it doesn’t strain other parts of your hand or arm. (4,5)3. Relax Your Wrists
If you find that certain activities cause you to tense your hands or wrists, remind yourself to consciously relax them. (6) Use only as much force or tension as necessary, and take regular breaks.
Avoid activities that cause extreme wrist flexion in any direction, and use supportive braces and splints as necessary.
4. Use an Ice Pack
Cold therapy is one of the best ways to reduce swelling and pain without taking a painkiller. Aim to ice your wrists for 10-15 minutes every hour (twice an hour for severe pain). For best results, alternate ice and heat as you feel necessary. (7)5. Take Warm Baths
This can be a full-on relaxing bathing experience or a bath specifically for your hands and wrists. Try to get the water temperature between 92-100 degrees Fahrenheit.
While under water, move your hands and wrists around, stretching and flexing to improve blood flow. Do this 3-4 times a day as needed for additional pain relief. (8)
6. Stay Warm
Should you find that you’re constantly cold (or that your hands and wrists are always cold), layer up and try to stay warm.
Cold muscles and tendons are more likely to strain, causing more pain and pressure with movement. Immerse your hands is warm water or keep a space heater near to warm up with regularly.7. Elevate Your Hands
Fluid retention can cause carpal tunnel syndrome, especially when brought on by pregnancy or another medical condition.
Elevating your hands above your heart will help reduce swelling and the subsequent pressure on the medial nerve. Do this several times a day or whenever you notice swelling.
8. Eat Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Over-the-counter and prescription anti-inflammatories come with their own list of side effects – many of which can be worse than the conditions they’re designed to treat.
Eating a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods is one of the most effective home remedies for carpal tunnel syndrome.
Foods and spices like garlic, cherries, turmeric, and ginger will provide just as much relief without the side effects.9. Use Homemade Pain Lotion
Over-the-counter and prescription pain creams can be unreasonably expensive – not to mention that they often contain unnecessary chemical additives.
Mix your own pain relieving lotion together with this essential oil recipe and slather on your wrists throughout the day as needed.
The compounds in essential oils are much the same as what is found in OTC pain creams – menthol and anti-inflammatory agents in their natural, potent form. (9)
10. Reorganize your Desk
Those with desk jobs that spend much of the day typing are at an increased risk of carpal tunnel syndrome compared to the general population.
To reduce your personal risk, make your workspace as ergonomic as possible – for your wrists AND your back. The placement of your computer, keyboard, chair, and mouse all have an effect on how much pressure is on that median nerve.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Exercises
The following carpal tunnel stretches should be performed daily.
For best results, perform them each 2-4 times per day.
11. Wrist Circles
The wrist circle movement is an effective way to stretch the tendons in your hands, wrists, and forearm. Watch the video below for proper form.
You’ll be moving your hands in as much of a circular motion as possible. Do this movement several times throughout the day or as needed.
12. Finger Spread
This stretch is a favorite for musicians and climbers, and can be performed with or without a rubber band. Spread your fingers out as far apart as comfortable, hold, and bring your fingers back together.
This may be uncomfortable if your hands are cold, so perform this exercise after a warm bath or using a heating pad.
For this stretch, you’re going to focus on just your thumbs. Make sure not to pull too hard and to stop if you experience pain. This should take you about one to two minutes per hand to do properly, so don’t rush!
Don’t think too hard on this one: it’s as simple as it sounds.
Either standing or sitting down, shake your hands and wrists as if you’re trying to dry them off after washing.
Perform this every hour or so to prevent cramping and just let your hands relax.15. Prayer Stretch
This stretch begins with your hands in a – you guessed it – prayer position. Bring your hands together in front of your chest, but below the chin.
Keeping your hands palmed together and upright, lower your hands and arms along your abdomen until you feel a stretch in your forearms.
Take care to make sure the stretch isn’t painful or forced. Hold for up to 30 seconds, and repeat 2-4 times.
16. Wrist Flexor Exercise
For this exercise, you’re going to start with your hand stretched out in front of you with the palm facing upwards. Keeping your arm where it is, bend at the wrist until your fingers are pointed towards the floor.
Use your other hand to gently push your hand further back until you feel a stretch in your forearm. Hold for 15-30 seconds, and repeat 2-4 times on each side.
This exercise is going to be much like the previous one, except your palm will be facing down to start. Keeping your arm where it is (straight out), bend at the wrist until your fingers are pointed towards the floor.
It may be more comfortable to have your hand balled into a loose fist. Use your other hand to gently push your hand further down until you feel a stretch in your forearm. Hold for 15-30 seconds, and repeat 2-4 times on each side.
18. Spider Mirror Push-ups
Don’t worry – this move doesn’t involve actual push-ups. Begin with your hands in a prayer position. In the same movement, spread your fingers out while pushing your fingertips against each other. This will separate your palms while the fingers stretch and move around.
The ‘spider’ movement stretches all of the carpal tunnel structures in the hand and provides pain relief across the median nerve.
19. Bharadvaja’s Twist
This popular yoga pose is the only one in the list that can’t be performed at your desk (at least, not without some funny looks from coworkers). Bharadvaja’s twist is a complete body stretch will get you up and out of your chair, focused on your breathing and mind-body connection. Over time, it will improve the flexibility of your whole body, wrists included. Perform this movement/pose at least once daily.
Follow the instructions in the video closely to ensure proper form and avoid injury.
These home remedies are simple, easy to perform, and most of them require no special tools or equipment. If done regularly and at (or before) the first sign of carpal tunnel syndrome, surgery can be completely avoided.