Surgery is considered the definitive treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome and is usually performed by hand surgeons for moderate to severe symptoms. However, for mild carpal tunnel symptoms (intermittent numbness and tingling, no loss of sensation and muscle weakness), non surgical options are recommended as initial treatment.
When patients show up at the hand surgeon’s office for evaluation of the numbness and tingling specific to the carpal tunnel syndrome, they often describe a myriad of treatments that they tried unsuccessfully. Usually months to several years were consumed in this process, and a result of severe loss of sensation and weakness leaves the patient with only one option…
Although a patient may ‘Google’ non surgical treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome, the results of this search subjects them to less than accurate opinions on this topic. A search of scientific journals is slightly more beneficial.
Due to the fact that carpal tunnel syndrome is a result of the median nerve compression in the wrist, the aim of the current non surgical treatments is to reduce that pressure and free up the median nerve.
These beneficial treatments include:
1. Activity and ergonomic modification.
2. Night time wrist and finger splinting in neutral position.
3. Physiotherapy: iontophoresis, ultrasound, nerve gliding, hand exercises and yoga.
4. Controlling medical risk factors: diabetes, hypothyroidism, obesity, smoking, arthritis.
Less beneficial for long term recovery are:
5. Oral medications: non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids, and vitamin B6.
6. Steroid injections into the carpal tunnel.
Finally, patients have described treatments such as placing a steak on the wrist for three days, magnets, lasers, chiropractic and acupuncture regimen. Currently, more research is needed as the evidence on these treatment options is not supportive for the carpal tunnel.
The information in this article is not intended to supplement the advice of a doctor. You should see your doctor to control your major medical problems that might increase your risk of carpal tunnel syndrome. He or she may give you a therapy referral and objectively measure your recovery. Take care of your hands!
1. Carlson H, Colbert A, Frydl J, Arnall E, Carlson N. Current options for nonsurgical management of carpal tunnel syndrome. IntJ Clin Rheumatol. 2010 Feb;5(1):129-142.
2. Michlovitz SL. Conservative interventions for carpal tunnel syndrome. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2004 Oct;34(10):589-600.