12 Secrets to Getting Rid of Carpal Tunnel Pain
Does your thumb on either hand feel like it’s going to sleep? Do you feel pain at the wrist joint? Do you get a pin and needle feeling in your hand? Does your hand, especially your thumb, feel weak?
Chances are that you have carpal tunnel syndrome. While it’s a fairly common problem, the pain and numbness it causes certainly don’t feel “common.”
What Is It Exactly?
Carpal tunnel refers to the tight space in the wrist where the median nerve, which is one of the nerves that run down the length of your forearm, gets compressed in what is already a tight space.
How Did This Happen to Me?
There are several ways people develop carpal tunnel including:
- Repetitive hand movements, such as grocery clerks passing items across a scanner
- Repetitive computer work. Using a mouse or typing so that the hands are positioned lower than the wrists
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Repeated use of vibrating tools, like drills or saws
- Playing a musical instrument, such as the violin
- Bone spurs
- Vitamin B6 deficiency
- Degenerative joint disease
Females tend to suffer from this problem more often than men, but those who have short, wide hands also tend to be affected.
Workers who perform repetitive tasks need to be especially aware of the early signs of carpal tunnel, which include a burning sensation, a feeling of pins and needles, a weakness in the hand, pain in the wrist, thumb, and often even the fingers.
The earlier carpal tunnel is treated, the easier it is for the body to heal.
What Does It Feel Like When You Have Carpal Tunnel?
The symptoms of carpal tunnel tend to start off so small and build up so gradually that many people are not even aware there is a problem until it becomes serious.
Symptoms often start at night, when we typically sleep with our wrists bent. Common symptoms include:
- Tingling, numbness, or a burning feeling in the wrists, thumbs, hands, or forearm
- The feeling that your hands or wrists are “tight”, so you want to shake them
- Weakness in the thumb and/or hand
- Pain in the wrist, thumb, hand, forearms, and fingers
You can usually tell that the pain you are feeling is carpal tunnel when your wrists, thumb, hands, and fingers hurt but the pinkie finger, and oftentimes the ring finger, does not.
What Will Happen if Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is Not Treated?
Left untreated, this condition will lead to weakness and a lack of coordination in the hand, fingers, and thumb. This will leave you almost unable to use your hand for everyday tasks, such as writing, holding a fork, or lifting a glass.
Compression of the median nerve in the wrist can also lead to permanent nerve damage. This is why getting treatment for carpal tunnel early is so important!
How to Get Rid of Carpal Tunnel Pain?
If you suffer from carpal tunnel, one of the first things you want to know is how you can get rid of the pain!
The good news here is that carpal tunnel syndrome treatment is easy to find, easy to do, and no surgery is necessary in most cases. You should see your chiropractor or other health care professional to rule out any other possible issues, but carpal tunnel is fairly easy to diagnose.
Want to know how to get rid of your carpal tunnel symptoms and pain? We are here to clue you in on 12 little secrets about doing exactly that.
Secret #1: Home Remedies
Sometimes, if you have a mild case of carpal tunnel or if you are going to give birth shortly so you know that your carpal tunnel pain will be ending soon, common carpal tunnel home remedies can help to give you relief from the pain. Some of the best home remedies are:
- Soak your wrist and hand in ice water for 10 to 15 minutes a few times a day. Ice baths reduce swelling and inflammation as well as pain.
- Try hanging your wrist and hand over the edge of a sofa, table, or bed for 10 to 15 minutes. This can relieve pressure and offer some much-needed relief.
- Try using a wrist splint or wrist wrap bandage. These can be purchased at any drug store.
- Warm some water to no more than 100 degrees and soak your wrist for 10 to 15 minutes, flexing your hand while you do so. Repeat 3 or 4 times per day. Warm water will loosen up the connective tissue.
Secret #2: Lighten the Load
Pay attention to whatever it is you are doing with your hands and reduce your grip. Try not to use so much pressure when typing or writing, and don’t hold on to tools or a steering wheel so tightly. Relax your grip and reduce the amount of pressure that you use.
You should also avoid flexing your wrists, in either direction, to any extreme. Your wrist should stay as neutral as possible. Use ergonomic keyboards and computer mice that are designed to reduce stress on the wrists.
Secret #3: Give It a Rest
One of the most obvious things to do is to stop doing whatever is causing you pain! This is one of those “sounds good on paper” things that are much harder to do in real life. Not many of us have the opportunity to stop working (if that’s the case) but you might be able to find a way to do exactly that.
Depending on the root cause, you can have your doctor write a note stating that you need to do “alternative work” for a certain period (usually two weeks). Your work must allow you to have alternate duties or take the time off.
If you work for yourself, well, maybe you should give yourself a two-week vacation and give your wrists and hands a well-deserved rest!
However, if you are experiencing carpal tunnel because you play a musical instrument or because of a certain sport you are playing, it will be easier to take some time away to let your body heal.
Pain that is caused by health conditions, such as fibromyalgia or rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, taking a 2- week break might help for a while, but you will probably need a longer-term solution.
Secret #4: Stretch It Out/Exercises
While giving your hands and wrists a break sounds great, sometimes, even that is not enough. There are a few simple stretches and exercises that can help to stop the pain and keep hands, fingers, and wrists more flexible. Do these 3 exercises a few times each day and before bed to help ease carpal tunnel syndrome.
Some of the best exercises for carpal tunnel include:
- Spider Doing Pushups on a Mirror. This exercise has a funny name but once you see it done, you will see that the name is perfect for this movement. Like the itsy-bitsy spider rhyme, put your hands together in a prayer position. Spread your fingers as far as possible, then steeple the fingers by separating the palms, keeping your fingers together. This up-and-down movement stretches the carpal tunnel structure, the median nerve, as well as the fascia of the palm.
- The Shake. Exercise doesn’t get much easier than this! Simply shake your hands in front of you as if they were wet and you are trying to air-dry them. Do this for about 1 minute every two hours and just before bed.
- The Armstrong Stretch. This is a very deep stretch that will make your wrist more flexible. Simply place your arm out in front of you and let your hand hang down at the wrist, palm side down. Using your opposite hand, apply gentle pressure to the hand and stretch the wrist as far as possible without pain. Hold for a count of 20, then switch hands. Do this stretching exercise several times per day and you should see improvement in about 3 weeks.
- The Prayer Stretch. You should feel the stretch in your wrists and not in the shoulders. Start with your palms together, held in front of the chest, just below the chin. Keeping your hands close to your body, lower your hands towards the waistline. Hold for 20-30 seconds, then repeat. Do this stretch two or more times per day.
Secret #5: How to Get Rid of Carpal Tunnel After Pregnancy
Some women experience the pain of carpal tunnel during pregnancy due to swelling. This swelling of the hands and wrists puts pressure on the median nerve, causing pain and numbness in the hands and fingers. Unfortunately, this pain can persist even after you have given birth.
For most women, it’s simply a matter of time before the swelling and inflammation cause things to return to normal. Your doctor might suggest cortisone injections to help relieve the pain, but the injections themselves can be quite painful.
Some of the best ways to speed up the healing process after pregnancy include:
- Eating foods high in vitamin B6 such as avocados, dark green vegetables, sunflower seeds, and garlic.
- Wear wrist braces or splints
- Wrapping wet, cold cabbage leaves around the wrists to remove excess fluids and stop swelling
- Do the stretching exercises in secret #4
- Have your partner or a friend give you gentle wrist massages
- Try giving your hands and wrists ice baths
- Use the hot wax treatment suggested in secret #7
- Drink chamomile tea to relax the muscles
- See your chiropractor for adjustments to your wrists and arms, reducing pressure and offering pain relief
Secret #6: How to Get Rid of Carpal Tunnel Pain at Night
Why does everything seem to hurt worse at night when you are trying to get your rest?! The answer to this is complicated, but most times, as in the case of carpal tunnel, it’s because we sleep in positions that cause pain. The pain from carpal tunnel can also increase at night because of a buildup of fluid, which put pressure on the area.
To find carpal tunnel relief at night, you need to avoid sleeping in certain positions that aggravate carpal tunnel such as
- The fetal position, where your arms are in front of you, the outside of your hands on top of each other, wrists bent in towards the chest.
- Sleeping on your stomach with your hands under the pillow
- Any position that bends your wrists
You can get more rest if you try the following before you hit the hay:
- Sleep with a wrist brace
- Sleep on your back with your arms and wrists flat on your side
- Sleep on your side with a pillow between your arms so your wrists remain straight
- Doing the stretching exercises listed in secret #7
- Drinking a cup of chamomile tea before bed to relax the muscles
- Massage your hands, wrists, and arms before bed
- Soak your hands and wrists in warm water for 10-15 minutes before bed to relax the muscles
Changing the position in which you sleep will probably do more good than anything else, but the other measures mentioned here have also been known to help. Experiment and try several options to find which ones work best for you.
Secret #7: For Pain Relief: Think Topical & Warm
While most mainstream medicine frowns on homeopathic treatments, many people swear by their healing power. You can certainly give these a try since you have lost nothing if these do not work for you.
Some of the best topical and homeopathic treatments for carpal tunnel include:
- Arnica. You can find this ancient herb in almost every drug store or even at your supermarket in the form of creams or gels. Arnica has been used for hundreds, if not thousands of years to heal bruises, prevent swelling, and stop pain. Even some studies show that arnica can help reduce pain levels. (1)
- St. John’s Wort. In addition to being a natural anti-depressant, hypericum Brasiliense, or St. John’s Wort, has been shown to have both analgesic and anti-inflammatory compounds. (2) You can take this as a supplement or use one of the many oils as a topical treatment.
- Boswellia. Sweet smelling Frankincense comes to us care of the Boswellia trees. These same trees also have powerful anti-inflammatory and analgesic compounds, as proven in a study. (3) If you are unable to find creams, gels, or lotions that contain Boswellia, you can buy the essential oil and use it as a massage tool.
- Menthol. Topical menthol, found in creams and lotions, has been used for ages to reduce pain and increase warmth in the hands. One study found that topically applied menthol worked far better to reduce pain than ice baths. Menthol relaxes the muscles and has an analgesic effect. (4)
- Hot Wax. Moist heat can do wonders by relaxing the muscles. You can try to soak your hands and wrists in warm water, in a bath, or use one of the hot wax products available in most drug stores. These have pots similar to slow cookers that warm wax to a comfortable temperature. Dip your hands and wrists in the wax three times and then allow it to stay on your skin until it has cooled. Simply peel it off when it is cold. This deep heat treatment is often used in physical therapy.
If you are unsure how to use the above items, speak to your doctor, pharmacist, or chiropractor.
Secret #8: Physical Therapy Modalities & Physical Rehabilitation
Get some physical therapy and physical therapy modalities right at your chiropractor’s office, physical therapy exercises and modalities can often help prevent the need for surgery by using different modalities and showing you ways of stretching and strengthening your wrists and hands while teaching you ways to prevent further damage.
Some examples of what physical therapy can do include:
- Teaching you ways to avoid bending your wrist while you work or play
- Showing you proper posture, especially when typing
- Explain stretching techniques you can employ anywhere
- Give yourself exercises to increase the strength of your arms, hands, wrists, and fingers
- Recommend ways to change the way you use certain items, such as adding padding to some items, so you don’t need to grip them as hard, etc.
Carpal tunnel syndrome responds well to many of the physical therapy modalities your chiropractor might use, which include:
- Chiropractic massage
- Cold laser therapy
- TENS device
Chiropractic care and physical therapy-related treatments are like hand and glove; they naturally go together to help heal carpal tunnel, so you can avoid surgery.
Secret #9: Supplement Power!
Before we begin this section, please note that you should always consult with your doctor, chiropractor, or pharmacist before taking any supplement, no matter how “natural” it might be. This is especially true if you are already taking prescription drugs. Avoid problems and possible drug interactions by consulting with a medical professional first.
Nutritional supplements can help reduce the pain, swelling, and inflammation that goes along with carpal tunnel. Some of the best supplements include:
- Vitamin B6- Studies have confirmed that vitamin B6 can not only reduce pain levels but has actually prevented some people from having surgery. Most studies have patients consuming 100mg a day. (5)
- Bromelain- This is a natural enzyme found in several fruits but is found in high levels in pineapple. This enzyme is well known for fighting inflammation as well as for having an analgesic effect. (6) The typical dose is 500mg three times daily.
- Curcumin- This is another highly studied herb that is recognized for its ability to fight inflammation. (7) It is poorly absorbed by the body, however. If you take curcumin, take a few grains of black pepper to increase your body’s ability to absorb this nutrient.
- Ginkgo Biloba- Ginkgo has been around for thousands of years and researchers can confirm that not only does this root have anti-inflammatory compounds, but it also stimulates the healing process. (8)
Secret #10: Chiropractic Massage
You might not know that massage has so many benefits beyond making you feel really relaxed. Many people find that chiropractic massage can help prevent surgery by breaking up the scar tissues and adhesions that occur from overuse or repetitive use.
Many times, carpal tunnel involves more than just the wrists and arms, but the shoulders and neck as well. Poor posture or subluxation of the spine, shoulders, and neck can cause muscles to tighten. Tight neck and/or shoulder muscles can cause you to make accommodations that can lead to swelling in the wrists, elbows, and forearms.
Chiropractic massage is perhaps one of the most relaxing and beneficial things you can do for your body, including stopping the advancement and pain of carpal tunnel. If you are looking for highly recommended Anchorage massage therapy, visit us at Better Health Alaska.
Secret #11: Essential Oils
This is another highly contentious subject. While research says that there is no proof that essential oils have any healing power, thousands of testimonials say otherwise. You have nothing to lose by trying some of the essential oils listed here.
Some of the most commonly recommended essential oils for carpal tunnel include:
Mixing one or more of the above oils and gently heating them creates a sweet-smelling massage oil. Use several times each day for the best results.
Secret #12: Chiropractic Care
Can I get rid of carpal tunnel syndrome without surgery? Ask your chiropractor! Chances are, the answer is yes. The majority of people do not need surgery to correct their carpal tunnel syndrome.
The median nerve which gets compressed in the wrist and causes pain begins in the cervical spine. Your chiropractor is a highly trained specialist in the entire musculoskeletal system of the body. This means that he can investigate and treat the compression of nerves anywhere in the body.
Chiropractors treat pain at the source, not simply cover up your symptoms.
Receiving chiropractic adjustments to realign the wrist, fingers, elbows, shoulders, neck, and back, reduce restrictions and allow the free flow of blood circulation. This will relieve pain, reduce swelling, and lead to lower levels of inflammation.
Some studies have suggested that many people with carpal tunnel pain are actually experiencing an issue not so much at the wrist, but a pinched median nerve in the upper back, shoulder, or neck. (9) Chiropractic adjustments can reduce the pressure on pinched nerves.
Adjustments have been proven to help stop and even reverse carpal tunnel syndrome. (10) Regular chiropractic care has very positive results in both controlling and healing carpal tunnel.
Your chiropractor might also use other modalities to treat your carpal tunnel including:
- Low Level Laser Light Therapy. Sometimes called Cold Laser Therapy, this type of treatment brings heat deep into the tissues to stimulate healing and reduce inflammation.
- Chiropractic Massage. Massage techniques, directed by the chiropractor, on the hands, wrists, arms, shoulders, and neck can bring welcome relief from pain, stimulate circulation, and reduce the build up of fluid, which relieves pressure on the median nerve.
- Physical Therapy. By directing you on how to perform certain exercises for strengthening the hands and arms, as well as stretching exercises you can do on a regular basis, your chiropractor also works as a physical therapist to restore flexibility.
- Ultrasound. While most people think of ultrasound as a means of diagnosis, this type of therapy uses sound waves that penetrate deep into the tissues of the body. These sound waves, which are outside of a human’s range of hearing, relax the muscles, reduce inflammation, and offer substantial pain relief.
Your chiropractor can also offer an assessment of the ergonomics of your workspace or home office to minimize stress and offer you alternative means of doing repetitive tasks.
Working with your chiropractor is the best of all possible treatments as it stops pain while preventing the need for surgery.
How Do I Know When It’s Time to See My Chiropractor?
Anytime you feel pain, numbness, weakness, or tingling in your thumbs, wrists, or hands and it lasts for more than 4 or 5 days, it’s time to see your chiropractor.
If you feel that the information in this article was helpful, please feel free to share it with others who you think might benefit from it.
However, if you or someone you love is suffering from the pain and difficulty of carpal tunnel, or if you aren’t sure that what you are experiencing is carpal tunnel syndrome, please call our office for a same-day appointment. Our highly skilled staff can diagnose your problem and create a treatment plan for your unique situation and your insurance probably covers the cost of treatment.