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Relieve Hand and Wrist Pain From Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Without Surgery

Now my hands are normal in the morning.  Before self-treatment my fingers were swollen to twice their normal size.
Now my hands are normal in the morning. Before self-treatment my fingers were swollen to twice their normal size. | Source

What causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

If you work with your hands, there is probably nothing more annoying or painful than Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. It involves the muscles and tendons surrounding the median nerve in the wrist. With overuse of your hands, these muscles and tendons thicken and exert a constant pressure on the median nerve. The nerve becomes inflamed from the extra pressure, which, over time, results in Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Activities that involve pressure on the wrists, such as continuous typing or heavy lifting with your wrists, are the typical culprits in the onset of this condition. It can take years for the symptoms to become troublesome. When the symptoms get bad, quality of life for the sufferer can become severely compromised, with constant pain, numbness and tingling.

The solution most commonly recommended by orthopedists is surgery. However, not everyone can afford this expensive option, and there are many people who simply object to the idea of having their wrist cut open. The recovery time can vary from person to person, but for some people even a couple of weeks without the use of their hand is not manageable.

Additionally, many surgeons don’t tell patients that the surgery can only be performed once. If it’s not successful, there’s nothing else that can be done, and the symptoms, such as numbness, are permanent.

I’ve suffered with Carpal Tunnel symptoms for years. My job requires me to type on multiple computer keyboards all day long, and I also move multiple laptops around in my classroom. In my spare time, I do freelance writing. Typing is one of the activities that can really exacerbate the numbness and tingling, and I type constantly. Although, in my case, I think the bigger problem was the repetitive lifting.

When the symptoms got so bad last year that it was waking me up in the middle of the night, I decided to see an orthopedist. He told me he would do the surgery, but that the numbness in my right hand might be permanent. That’s when I decided to be proactive and seek some alternate solutions to surgery. So far, they seem to be working. While I still have some occasional numbness and tingling once a while, for the most part my symptoms have lessened to the degree that it no longer impairs my quality of life.

A good wrist brace keeps the wrist straight while leaving the fingers and thumb plenty of wiggle room.
A good wrist brace keeps the wrist straight while leaving the fingers and thumb plenty of wiggle room. | Source

Use a good wrist brace at night

Since the median nerve is extra sensitive to pressure, keeping your wrist straight while you sleep is important to avoid waking up in the middle of the night with severe numbness and wrist pain. I used to wake up in agony in the middle of the night, and have to press and shake my arm to get rid of the pain. As soon as I started wearing a brace, I was able to sleep through the night without pain.

The type of brace you choose is critically important for the right support of your hand and wrist. A brace should never be too soft, as it will not provide the needed support. A hard brace with at least two Velcro straps is the best support, and it’s not as uncomfortable as you might think.

I hate wearing anything around my wrists, but I found no problem tolerating the brace around my wrist and hand at night. In addition to straps, the proper brace should only go halfway up the hand, giving your fingers wiggle room.

If you do a lot of repetitive lifting for your job, then sturdy wrist braces should be worn at all times during work. A brace keeps your wrist straight when you’re lifting, which is important to prevent additional stress on the wrists and median nerve. You can wear separate braces for sleeping and for work. In fact, it’s a good idea to have one for work and one for home - and wash them regularly to avoid skin irritations.

There are several good brands of hand and wrist braces on the market. However, the one brand that is my personal favorite is the Mueller wrist braces. Wrist braces should be selected for maximum stability of the wrists, and in order to achieve that stability, high quality braces should be thick and have three straps. Mueller braces are sturdy, and the three strong Velcro straps really do the job of stabilizing the wrist and hand while leaving the fingers free. It’s the best brand I’ve used so far, and I’ve tried several.


Consult Your Doctor

Always consult your doctor before ingesting any supplements or herbs. They can have dangerous side effects depending on your other conditions, allergies, and/or medications.

Regular supplementation can reduce painful symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Regular supplementation can reduce painful symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome | Source

Add anti-inflammatory herbs to your diet

There are certain herbs that have well-established anti-inflammatory properties. Once such herb is Turmeric, which is widely used in Indian food. Turmeric is so powerful that it’s taken orally to treat a wide variety of inflammatory conditions.

Turmeric

When I read some articles about Turmeric, I decided to try it out. I started using Turmeric capsules over the summer while I was on hiatus from teaching. Lo and behold, about three or four days after I started taking the supplement, the pain and numbness that I had been dealing with every morning started to subside. About a week after taking the turmeric daily - the symptoms were almost gone. It felt incredible to wake up in the morning without throbbing pain in my right hand.

There is no hard evidence from conventional medical studies that turmeric reduces inflammation. However, it is my personal belief, from many years of using supplements such as turmeric, that herbs such as turmeric do offer relief from a variety of ailments related to inflammation. I take into consideration what the established medical field recommends, but I also know that in the United States the bulk of research funding goes into man made medications that will reap a sizable profit.

I make turmeric part of my daily supplementation, and I’ve discovered that it not only helps the Carpal Tunnel, but that it makes me feel better overall, including a lessening of my allergy and osteo arthritis symptoms. Regardless of what traditional medicine says, the anecdotal evidence was enough to encourage me to try it. It should be noted that Turmeric acts as a blood thinner. You should always consult with your physician if you’re planning on adding any kind of natural herbs to your routine. Natural does not always equal safe for every person because each of us have different health conditions.

Oregano Oil

The second herbal supplement I take once or twice a week is oil of oregano. I’ve written other articles about the curative powers of oil of oregano for skin conditions, fungal infection, and all kinds of viruses like the cold and flu. Oil of oregano is also excellent as a topical agent for pain and inflammation, but because of the smell and thick consistency - I take it internally for systemic inflammation and abstain from using it on my wrists. I prefer using creams on my skin, not oil, unless I have some dermatitis - then I use the Oil of Oregano out of the bottle.

My miracle supplement

Glucosamine Chondroitin with MSM

Last but not least, I take Glucosamine Chondroitin with MSM, at least 1500mg. A lot of people take Glucosamine Chondroitin by itself without the MSM. A little research shows that taking one without the other is not nearly as effective as taking a supplement that contains all three ingredients. MSM is a sulfur compound that is necessary for the optimal health of all the body’s organs and bones, including the heart. A physical therapist I work with recommended only taking supplements that included MSM.

Perhaps the most important benefit of taking MSM daily its anti – inflammatory properties. Since Carpal Tunnel is an inflammation of the large nerve in the wrist, anything that reduces the inflammation is worth taking every day. I’ve had great success with the Jarrow brand of Glucosamine Chondroitin & MSM. It costs a bit more than some other brands, but it’s one of the more respected health supplement brands, and the reviews convinced me to try it. I’ve had a good experience with these capsules - especially because they’re easy to swallow.

It should be noted that studies have been done that supposedly prove that Glucosamine Chondroitin with MSM do not work at all to relieve pain or reduce inflammation. One study showed that only a few people got relief by taking these supplements. The majority had no marked improvement in symptoms. Other studies showed a marked improvement in pain symptoms for test subjects who took Glucosamine Chondroitin. My theory on that is that everything is worth a try. You won’t know if something works for you until you try it.

A supplement that may work is worth trying for a couple of months. Taking medications should be a last resort because the long-term health risks associated with ibuprofen products and NSAIDS are alarming. Liver and stomach damage are two big side effects of these over the counter drugs. Long-term use of pain-killers is life threatening – including kidney failure– something that doctors neglect to stress to patients.

A supplement that may not work for one person may work for another. Glucosamine with Chondroitin and MSM has worked for me, not just with the Carpal Tunnel symptoms, but also with the osteoarthritis in my knees. I plan on using it for the rest of my life.

The right topical cream can also help with pain

Any cream that contains Arnica is very helpful for most types of pain caused by inflammation of the tendons, nerves, and joints. One of the best over the counter products on the market is Penetrex. It contains Arnica and is an excellent pain reliever to rub on your hands and wrists.

Arnica is derived from a plant called the Arnica Montana, it’s similar to a dandelion. The pain relieving creams and tinctures are extracted from the leaves of the plant. Luckily, since I’ve been taking the turmeric, glucosamine with MSM and wearing a brace – it’s rare to feel wrist pain. When I do get the occasional flare-up I use the Arnicare Cream and it really helps. There are several good brands on the market. I especially like the Arnicare cream because it's not greasy or smelly. If you decide to try another brand, check the ingredients to make sure Arnica is one of the main ingredients,

The right desk chair can make a world of difference.
The right desk chair can make a world of difference. | Source

Make typing more comfortable

Unless you have an ergonomically correct desk, chair and wrist rest – typing for any length of time is a miserable experience. If at all possible, make sure you are sitting on a desk chair that is adjustable and that allows your forearms to rest comfortably on your desk. I was sitting on a desk chair for a couple of years that was too low for my desk. The pain in my hand radiated up to my shoulder because of the angle. Once I switched to a higher chair, the pain lessened immediately. Ideally, your forearms should rest perpendicular to your upper arms if you’re sitting at the right height. Your wrists should not be higher than your elbows while working.

Furthermore, your wrists benefit from some cushioning and support. A decent wrist rest positioned properly in front of your computer keyboard will keep your hands positioned during typing to minimize repetitive injury. A good wrist rest will not only cushion the wrist area, but it will keep your hands and fingers in the right position to avoid additional strain.

With the right combination of self treatment you can skip the surgery

I’m someone who likes to have options. When it comes to medical conditions, I believe in seeking medical advice from a professional. Then I do my own research to find alternatives to drugs and surgery. I’m not a doctor, but I have had great success finding alternatives that doctors don’t always discuss with their patients.

Doctors are quick to cut and snip, especially with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. However, if you want to try some alternatives, you may be surprised at the results. With some patience, and trial and error, you can find the right combination of supplements and pain reducers, including braces, to get relief.

In many instances, you can reduce the inflammation in your wrists to the extent that you can live pain-free. Even when it comes to activities that involve your hands, such as typing, the right pain-management regimen and supplementation can help you regain the use of your hands without pain.

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13 comments

LongTimeMother profile image

LongTimeMother 2 years ago from Australia

Hi macteacher. This is an excellent hub. I am a great supporter of all the herbs you mentioned. :)


Mel Carriere profile image

Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

My wife recently had Carpal Tunnel surgery. The wrist brace did not work for her. I fear I am heading down the same road, so I am going to try a few of your tips. Great hub!


macteacher profile image

macteacher 2 years ago from New York Author

@LongTimeMother: Thank you! Herbs really can help a lot of people.

@Mel Carriere: I'm sorry you're having the same problem. I'm hoping some of what I wrote helps you. Thanks for the compliment. :-)


WriterJanis profile image

WriterJanis 2 years ago from California

I have carpal tunnel and the Dr. told me that even with surgery, it doesn't mean it will make it better. It's a chance you have to take. I opted out.


macteacher profile image

macteacher 2 years ago from New York Author

WriterJanis,

Yup, I heard the same thing. Makes you wonder what's the point of surgery if you have a 50/50 chance of ending up with the same symptoms.

Go figure. Thanks for stopping by. :-)


mylindaelliott profile image

mylindaelliott 2 years ago from Louisiana

I use and do several of these things already for fibromyalgia. I didn't realize it would help with carpal tunnel too.


macteacher profile image

macteacher 2 years ago from New York Author

mylindaelliott,

Yes, many of the natural supplements that work for fibromyalgia also work for nerve problems like Carpal Tunnel. Thanks for stopping by. :-)


fivesenses profile image

fivesenses 2 years ago from new delhi

Very helpful and informative.


Ruby H Rose profile image

Ruby H Rose 2 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

I didn't know about some of the herbs you mentioned. They need to be added to my daily supply, since I too write better through my hands.


macteacher profile image

macteacher 2 years ago from New York Author

Hi Ruby,

Yes I believe surgery is an absolute last resort. So far my hands are doing great. I've stopped wearing the wrist brace. I don't seem to need it anymore. I hope the herbs help you too. Thanks for stopping by. :-)


Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 13 months ago from Long Island, NY

It's good that you looked for an alternate solution to surgery. From my own experience, I found that doctors don't always know everything. I had surgery several years ago for carpal tunnel. But some time after that another doctors discovered that I had three slipped discs in my neck that were the cause of the numbness in my hand.

My other hand, which I did not have carpel tunnel surgery, started getting numb at times. But it gets better when I use a thick pillow under my head at night. So it wasn't carpel tunnel in my case even though the first doctor said it was.

Doctors are too quick to recommend surgery. And as you said, they, as well as pharmaceutical industries, benefit from encouraging people towards this solution.

You mentioned the power of using Turmeric as an Anti-Inflammatory - I make my own hummus and I use Turmeric as one of the ingredients. I agree with you, as I find my hands don't get numb as much when I use Turmeric over a period of time.


macteacher profile image

macteacher 13 months ago from New York Author

Thanks for stopping by Glenn. Those slipped discs sound painful. Turmeric works wonders. As it turns out, I delayed surgery for several years with non - surgical options, I finally had to opt for surgery on my right hand. I was actually losing use of my fingers.

I got a second opinion from a hand specialist, who did the surgery. It was a huge success and I'm writing an article about my experience. In my case I knew it was Carpal Tunnel, but that is not always true for patients. A proper diagnosis is crucial for the surgery to work. Good luck with your condition.


Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 13 months ago from Long Island, NY

Thanks for your reply Wendy. Actually the slipped discs are not painful, they just cause numbness sometimes when I sleep the wrong way. But as I mentioned, keeping my head on a thick pillow avoids any problems.

In your case you found out that you definitely had Carpal Tunnel. So it's good you had a good doctor who did the surgery successfully. It's important to get that fixed because, as you indicated, one can lose use of their fingers if they let it get numb too often.

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