Wrist pain illustration by OrganicNewsroom

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is an often debilitating condition involving the numbness, tingling, pain, and inability to move fingers, the hand, or wrist. This condition is caused by pressure being placed on the median nerve which runs along the forearm into the hand. Addressing the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome can help bring sweet relief and, fortunately, there are several at-home, all-natural steps to do so.

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is caused by unnatural pressure being placed on the median nerve. What’s the median nerve, one might ask? The median nerve runs from the inner area in one’s shoulder, down through the inner bicep area, branches out upon reaching the forearm, but continues through to one’s wrist—passing through the Carpal Tunnel to get there.

When the carpal tunnel is chronically stressed or inflamed, it can cause larger-than-normal amounts of pressure on the median nerve. This pressure is what causes the tingling, numbness, and pain of carpal tunnel syndrome. It’s like having a nerve placed into a vice that slowly starts clamping down. If you’re looking for carpal tunnel pain relief, one needs first recognize it for what it is.

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Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

CTS Symptoms typically come on slowly, worsening over time. This is characteristic of many chronic conditions that can be linked to unaddressed inflammation. If you suspect you have carpal tunnel syndrome, it’s important to consult with a well-educated professional to help confirm your diagnosis.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can be easy to misdiagnose. For example, the Ulnar nerve (funny bone nerve) controls the pinky finger, and part of the ring finger, much in the way the median nerves controls the rest. If your pain is localized to only this area you might be suffering from Cubital Tunnel Syndrome—another issue altogether. Here are some of the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome:

  1. Tingling & Numbness can be a sign of many health issues. There’s a high probability that such symptoms indicate carpal tunnel syndrome when they’re centered about the palm side of the hand and exclude the pinky finger, and perhaps even the ring finger. The Median nerve does not branch into the pinky finger and only does so partially into the ring finger (R).
  2. The weakness that is isolated to the hand(s) can be a strong indicator of carpal tunnel syndrome. This may be characterized by general weakness, the tendency to drop things more often than usual, or a reduced ability in grip strength (R). Such symptoms can also be signs of other health conditions and generally only characterize carpal tunnel syndrome when they are chronic.
  3. Pain is a common result of the pressure place on the media The carpal tunnel can become swollen which leads to pressure and restriction in movement. This pain is often experienced when not using the wrist but becomes much worse when doing so. Trying to ease carpal tunnel pain can be a struggle.

Carpal Tunnel Treatments

Relieving carpal tunnel pain can be a process of addressing several concerns simultaneously. This can involve anything from avoiding certain physical movements, taking over-the-counter (OTC) medication, to having carpal tunnel release surgery. Only your doctor can help you understand the best path for your treatment. Below you’ll find a list of several treatment options that are common to those suffering from various degrees of carpal tunnel syndrome:

  1. Splints and wrist braces can be worn to help support the wrist and limit movements that could make the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome worse. There are many different types of carpal tunnel syndrome wrist braces, each of which offers advantages over others. For example, braces with extra support can be used for cases of extreme pain while compression braces are better suited (in most cases) for those suffering only mild symptoms. Here’s a great resource for understanding how to find the best wrist braces for carpal tunnel syndrome.
  2. Avoiding certain physical activity is a bit of a no-brainer. If your foot hurts, try to walk on it as little as possible right? That’s an accurate concept of the issue but, more often than not, people don’t recognize the extent to which one must avoid an activity to provide carpal tunnel relief. For example, you shouldn’t be trying to type on a keyboard—at all. That’s not an option for many which are why medication + wrist braces are such common treatment options.
  3. Over-the-Counter Medication such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen are common OTC medications that can help relieve carpal tunnel pain. These medications are often recommended by Doctors to help treat mild cases of carpal tunnel syndrome and are available from any local pharmacy such as Walgreen’s or CVS. Even though these medications don’t require a prescription, it’s important to check with your doctor to ensure they won’t interfere with any other medications.
  4. Dietary Supplements have shown to provide natural relief for carpal tunnel syndrome (R)(R). Any supplement that demonstrates efficacy in lowering inflammation stands to help address symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. Certain compounds have stronger clinical evidence to support their role in treating carpal tunnel syndrome naturally. Some of these include Vitamin B6, N-Acetyl L-Carnitine (NALT), Alpha Lipoic Acid, Turmeric, and Vitamin C. These compounds are renowned for their ability to lower inflammation, among many other benefits. Just remember, not all supplements are created of equal quality and buying from quality brands is important.
  5. Physical Therapy & Alternative Therapies such as electromagnetic therapy, stretching exercises, and even Yoga can help with carpal tunnel syndrome (R). You should never attempt physical activity as a therapy for CTS until consulting with a professional that knows their stuff. Depending on your symptoms, such activities could make things much worse!
  6. Surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome is reserved for only the most serious of cases—those with extreme pain or unresponsive to other therapies. Open carpal tunnel surgery and endoscopic release surgery are the two commonest types of surgeries for carpal tunnel syndrome. These often bring instant relief to long-experienced symptoms but aren’t a sure thing. These can sometimes make symptoms worse as well.

Discussion

By limited (but thorough) projections, it’s estimated that nearly nine-million Americans suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome (R). This is far from being as concerning as epidemics or pandemics but is alarming nonetheless.

There’s a persuasive argument that such high rates are from a combination of lifestyle and dietary choices. Certain healthy diets have demonstrated the ability to significantly lower systemic inflammation (R). It’s impossible to say how influential one’s diet is on specific symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. The sparse scientific evidence to describe nutritional links to carpal tunnel syndrome is mostly limited to specific nutrients, such as Vitamin B6 (R).

Taking vitamins and supplements can seem like a no-brainer for addressing nutritional concerns. In many cases, these provide nutritive support so similar to what our bodies are used to that only minimal side effects are reported. Certain genetic mutations can throw a monkey wrench into the mix and, in some cases, taking certain supplements might not work out as well as they do for others.

Final Thoughts

Carpal tunnel syndrome is no joke. It affects millions each year and can make one unable to perform routine daily tasks—such as typing or writing. Spotting the symptoms early can help your doctor develop an effective plan of attack. Treatment options such as wrist braces, physical therapy, and even surgery have all shown merits in helping treat carpal tunnel syndrome. Home treatments such as wrist wraps and supplements are often the easiest first option but aren’t always guaranteed to solve the problem.

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