Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

View the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Slideshow

Quick GuideCarpal Tunnel Syndrome Pictures Slideshow: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Pictures Slideshow: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

What is the treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome? Is it possible to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome?

The choice of treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome depends on the severity of the symptoms and any underlying disease that might be causing the symptoms.

Initial treatment usually includes rest, immobilization of the wrist in a splint, and occasionally ice application. Those whose occupations are aggravating the symptoms should modify their activities. For example, computer keyboards and chair height may need to be adjusted to optimize comfort. These measures, as well as periodic resting and range of motion stretching exercise of the wrists, can actually prevent the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome that are caused by repetitive overuse. Underlying conditions or diseases are treated individually. Fractures can require orthopedic management. Obese individuals will be advised regarding weight reduction. Rheumatoid disease is treated with measures directed against the underlying arthritis. Wrist swelling that can be associated with pregnancy resolves in time after delivery of the baby.

Several types of medications have been used in the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome. Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) has been reported to relieve some symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, although it is not known how this medication works. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can also be helpful in decreasing inflammation and reducing pain. Side effects include gastrointestinal upset and even ulceration of the stomach. These medications should be taken with food, and abdominal symptoms should be reported to the doctor. Corticosteroids can be given by mouth or injected directly into the involved wrist joint. They can bring rapid relief of the persistent symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. Side effects of these medications, when given in short courses, for carpal tunnel syndrome are minimal. However, corticosteroids can aggravate diabetes and should be avoided in the presence of infections.

Most patients with carpal tunnel syndrome improve with conservative measures and medications. Occasionally, chronic pressure on the median nerve can result in persistent numbness and weakness. In order to avoid serious and permanent nerve and muscle consequences of carpal tunnel syndrome, surgical treatment is considered. Surgery involves severing the band of tissue around the wrist to reduce pressure on the median nerve. This surgical procedure is called "carpal tunnel release." It can now be performed by microsurgery with a small diameter viewing tube, called an arthroscope, or by open wrist procedure. After carpal tunnel release, patients often undergo exercise rehabilitation. Though it is uncommon, symptoms can recur.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/18/2015
VIEW PATIENT COMMENTS
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome - Experience

    Please describe your experience with carpal tunnel syndrome.

    Post View 40 Comments
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome - Symptoms and Signs

    What are your carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms and signs?

    Post View 16 Comments
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome - Treatment

    What was the treatment for your carpal tunnel syndrome?

    Post View 6 Comments
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome - Causes

    Did you develop carpal tunnel while pregnant, from computer use, or something else? Please discuss the cause.

    Post View 4 Comments
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome - Diagnosis

    Describe the exams that led to a diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome. Did you think it was something else?

    Post View 1 Comment

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors