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How to ease carpal tunnel pain at home

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SplintingStretchingErgonomic adjustmentsPain reliefOTC medication optionsSpeaking with a doctorSummary
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) can make the smallest of arm or hand movements seem challenging. However, home treatment options can help ease symptoms and restore function.
Medically reviewed by Gregory Minnis, DPT
Written by Nadia Zorzan
Updated on

CTS can range from mild, moderate, or severe. It occurs when the wrist squeezes or compresses the median nerve, which allows you to flex your forearms and hands. Repetitive tasks often bring on CTS, which can lead to pain, numbness, and tingling around the nerve. It can also lead to a weakened grip on the thumb and index, middle, or ring finger.

The following home remedy treatments may help reduce inflammation and swelling of the tendons in the wrists due to CTS. They are more likely to help if you’re experiencing only mild to moderate symptoms.

If your symptoms worsen and become severe or are not going away, consider speaking with a healthcare professional.

Splinting

A splint is a medical device made of materials like neoprene (a type of synthetic rubber), which can mold around an injury or broken bone. This helps keep it in a neutral position and places the least amount of pressure on the median nerve.

Research from 2023 suggests that a splint can be an effective option for improving the symptoms of CTS, especially if you wear it consistently for 6 months.

A carpal tunnel splint holds your wrist in a position that limits its range of motion but, at the same time, allows the fingers to move. Splints are commonly worn at night when your hand is more likely to bend during sleep.

You can also wear a splint during the day to reduce the amount of stress placed on the wrist from different activities.

Stretching

Person flexing their hand to depict carpal tunnel treatment at home.
pipat wongsawang/Getty Images

A 2020 study suggests that stretching the carpal ligament can be effective in treating numbness and tingling associated with CTS, as well as helping to increase pinch strength and grip.

Stretches that may help include:

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Wrist extension stretches

  1. Straighten your arm and bend your wrist backward to make a stop sign with your hand.
  2. Use your opposite hand to apply slight pressure across the palm and pull the hand toward you until you feel a stretch on the inside of your forearm.
  3. Hold the stretch for 15 seconds.
  4. Repeat the stretch five times, making sure you don’t lock your elbow when straightening your arm.
  5. Perform the same stretch on the other arm.

Medial nerve glides

  1. Stand up straight.
  2. Put your arm out to the side and ensure your elbow is straight.
  3. Bend your wrist toward you and, as you do, tilt your head away from your wrist.
  4. Hold for 5–10 seconds.
  5. Bend your wrist away from you, and as you do, tilt your head toward your wrist.
  6. Hold for 5–10 seconds.
  7. Repeat five times.

You can perform these stretches 4–5 times a day to help ease discomfort.

Making ergonomic adjustments

Ergonomics are factors that help you do things more efficiently, safely, and comfortably. For example, you may make ergonomic adjustments at work by changing the placement of your desk, computer monitor, chair, keyboard, and mouse. This can help you maintain good posture, reduce stress on your body, and reduce injuries caused by prolonged awkward positions and repetitive tasks.

When sitting at a desk, it may be helpful to make sure:

  • your feet are resting flat on the floor
  • your knees and hips are at 90 degrees
  • the chair allows you to sit upright with a small curve to the lower back
  • your elbows are at a 90-degree angle, and your shoulders are relaxed when using a mouse or keyboard
  • your eyes are level with the top of the computer monitor while looking straight ahead

You can make simple ergonomic adjustments by:

  • placing a box under your feet if they don’t touch the floor
  • elevating the monitor with books or a box to avoid constantly moving your neck up and down while typing
  • placing a towel at your lower back to provide support for an upright posture
  • using a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse if you have an elevated laptop screen
  • placing a towel under your forearm to enable the elbow and wrist to move easily
  • taking regular breaks from typing to rest your hand
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Using pain relief methods

The following pain relief methods may also help ease CTS symptoms:

  • Ice packs: Ice may help numb the pain of CTS and reduce any swelling of the ligaments in your wrist. You can cover an ice pack with a towel and then wrap it around the base of your wrist, leaving it in place for 15–20 minutes.
  • Heat therapy: Heat can temporarily help with stiffness and soreness. You can place a heating pad on your wrist for 30 minutes.
  • Avoiding activities that bring on symptoms: Repetitive tasks can irritate CTS. Taking a break from repetitive tasks, stretching your hands, and moving your wrists can help improve blood flow in these areas. Setting a timer as a reminder to take a break every 15 minutes can also be helpful.
  • CBD: Although there is no research regarding the effectiveness of CBD in targeting CTS specifically, researchers of a 2020 study concluded that CBD oil can help reduce pain and nerve dysfunction similar to CTS.

Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication options

Sometimes, various OTC pain medications can help ease pain and swelling associated with CTS. They may help provide some short-term relief from discomfort.

These include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as:

You may also wish to apply topical products containing menthol, such as Biofreeze or Tiger Balm, to help temporarily reduce pain.

If you need help covering the cost of medications, the free Optum Perks Discount Card could help you save up to 80% on prescription drugs. Follow the links on drug names for savings on that medication, or search for a specific drug here.

When should you speak with a doctor?

Contact a doctor if your symptoms are getting worse or not going away. This includes:

  • difficulty in holding objects or moving your hands
  • inability to touch your index finger and thumb together
  • symptoms that affect how you work and sleep
  • feeling of constant numbness in your hands during waking hours
  • a shrinkage or an indentation in the bulging area at the base of your thumb

A doctor may prescribe corticosteroid medication such as prednisone (Prelone) to relieve pressure on the median nerve. They may also discuss other options, such as a steroid injection into your wrist to reduce swelling around the nerve or surgery.

Summary

CTS can range from mild to severe and lead to pain, numbness, and weakness in the fingers and hands.

Certain home remedies such as splinting, stretching, taking OTC medication, and making ergonomic adjustments to your workplace may help ease CTS discomfort.

Speak with a healthcare professional if your CTS symptoms do not improve or get worse.

Download the free Optum Perks Discount Card to save up to 80% on some prescription medications.

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