The good news is that mild symptoms can sometimes be treated at home, but starting treatment early is best because there is less chance of long-term damage to the nerve.
Things that can be done at home to lessen the severity of symptoms include:
• Stopping activities that cause discomfort.
• Resting wrists between activities.
• Icing the wrist for 10 to 15 minutes once or twice a day.
• With the advice of your doctor, trying nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve pain and reduce swelling.
• Wearing a wrist splint at night to keep the wrist in a neutral position.
If symptoms don’t get better after one to two weeks of home care, see a doctor for medication, a referral to physical therapy or surgery.
During surgery, the doctor cuts the ligament at the top of the carpal tunnel to increase room and relieve pressure on the nerve. Surgery usually works, but sometimes does not completely get rid of numbness or pain.
To keep carpal tunnel syndrome from coming back, take care of your wrists and hands by:
• Trying to keep your wrist in a neutral position.
• Using your entire hand to hold objects – not just your fingers.
• Keeping your wrists straight when you type, with your hands a little higher than your wrists.
• Relaxing your shoulders when your arms are at your sides.
• Switching hands often to prevent overuse.
Orthopedic surgeon Pamela Jones, MD, is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and board-certified hand surgeon who is on staff at Merrimack Valley Hospital. You can find more information about her at www.steward.org/merrimack-valley by clicking on DoctorFinder.