Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Non-Surgical Carpal Tunnel Treatments

Some people with carpal tunnel syndrome can find relief with non-surgical treatments. Others may need surgery to relieve their symptoms.

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve in the wrist is pinched, causing pain, tingling, or numbness in the hand and fingers. For most people, carpal tunnel syndrome gets progressively worse over time without treatment. Fortunately, there are a number of carpal tunnel treatments to help relieve your symptoms.

Non-surgical treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome

Non-surgical treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome include these options:

– Carpal tunnel splint

Wearing a splint or brace around your wrist can help reduce pressure on the median nerve by keeping your wrist in a neutral or straight position. Your doctor may recommend that you wear the splint at night to prevent your wrist from bending while you sleep. It may also be helpful to wear the splint during daytime activities that make your symptoms worse. The wrist splint is often the first-line treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome.

– Physiotherapy or occupational therapy

Some people with carpal tunnel syndrome choose to see a physical or occupational therapist. A therapist can use special techniques to help nerves and tendons pass through the carpal tunnel more easily.

Complementary and alternative medicine treatments

Yoga may help reduce pain in some people with carpal tunnel syndrome. Some people report relief from acupuncture or chiropractic treatments.

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carpal tunnel exercises

There are a few home exercises you can try for carpal tunnel syndrome, although studies are mixed as to how much of a benefit these exercises really are. Carpal tunnel exercises may be more effective when combined with another carpal tunnel treatment, such as wearing a wrist splint.

Simple carpal tunnel exercises

The basic carpal tunnel exercises to try include these moves:

Shake your hands or wrists gently until the pain or numbness goes away.

Close your fist. One at a time, release each finger until all of your fingers are pointing toward the ceiling and it feels like you’re telling someone to stop with your hand. Repeat the operation 5 to 10 times.

Close your fist, then open your hand by spreading your fingers apart one by one. Repeat the operation 5 to 10 times.

Place your right arm in front of you, fingers facing the floor. Use your other hand to lightly push down on the downward-facing hand, stretching your hand and fingers until they go as far as they will go. Hold this position for about 20 seconds.

Surgery for the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome

If nonsurgical treatments don’t provide relief or if your median nerve has been damaged, your doctor may recommend a type of surgery called carpal tunnel release.

What is Carpal Tunnel Clearance Surgery?

Carpal tunnel release is usually an outpatient procedure. It is a very common operation.

Carpal tunnel surgery involves cutting a ligament around the wrist to relieve pressure on the median nerve. After the operation, the ligament grows back, leaving more room in the carpal tunnel for the passage of nerves and tendons. The operation can be performed under general anesthesia, which makes you fall asleep, or under local anesthesia, which numbs only the hand and arm.

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Complications of carpal tunnel release surgery are the most common:

Damage or injury to the median nerve

Recovery after carpal tunnel release surgery

Some of the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome may disappear immediately after the operation, but full recovery may take up to a year. At first, you will lose some of your grip strength and the ability to move your hand and wrist in certain ways. But these losses will gradually return as the ligament heals.

Your doctor may refer you to a hand therapist to help you recover if you have significant hand pain or weakness that lasts longer than two months. Even with surgery, your hand may never feel whole. totally normal. Many people report mild residual numbness or tingling after carpal tunnel surgery.

carpal tunnel syndrome during pregnancy

Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause the tissues around the carpal tunnel to swell. This leads to hand and wrist pain.

Carpal tunnel syndrome usually goes away on its own after pregnancy. Non-surgical therapies, for example, wearing a carpal tunnel splint at night, can help alleviate symptoms in the meantime. Pregnancy-related carpal tunnel syndrome usually does not require surgery.



Ballestero-Perez R, et al. Effectiveness of nerve-gliding exercises on carpal tunnel syndrome: A systematic review. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. 2017;40:50.

Kothari MJ. Treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 24, 2017.

Lewis KJ, et al. Education, night splinting and exercise versus usual care on recovery and conversion to surgery for people awaiting carpal tunnel surgery: A protocol for a randomized, controlled trial. British Medical Journal. 2016;6:e012053.

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Kim SD. Efficacy of tendon and nerve gliding exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Physical Therapy Science. 2015;8:2645.


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