Treatment Options for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

By  , Expert Content
Jun 29, 2012

Carpal tunnel syndrome can be treated both conservatively and by surgery. For success in treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome and preventing damage of median nerve, early diagnosis is very helpful.

Conservative approach of treatment is most helpful in patients with mild carpal tunnel syndrome. If there is no relief with conservative treatment or the symptoms are severe, surgery may be the ideal solution.

Nonsurgical therapy (conservative approach)

CTS in early stages can be treated with nonsurgical methods. Conservative approach for treatment of CTS includes:

  • Wrist splinting: In this a splint is applied to the wrist that holds your wrist still while you sleep. This is useful to relieve night time symptoms of tingling and numbness. Nocturnal splinting is very useful in pregnant women who develop carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs such as aspirin and ibuprofen are commonly used pain relievers. These are useful to relieve pain from carpal tunnel syndrome in the short term. But NSAIDs are not given for a long time as they can cause many side effects, and there is no evidence that they actually improve the carpal tunnel syndrome at all.
  • Corticosteroids: If you have severe pain, a corticosteroid, such as cortisone, may be injected in the carpal tunnel to relieve pain. Corticosteroids help to decrease inflammation, swelling and pain owing to their wide ranging anti-inflammatory action. Oral corticosteroids are not useful in CTS as they are not as effective as corticosteroid injections.

If carpal tunnel syndrome is caused because of an inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, treatment of the underlying condition may relieve symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.


Aim of carpal tunnel surgery is to relieve pressure on the median nerve. It is done by cutting the ligament pressing on the nerve. During recovery after the surgery, the ligament tissues gradually grow back together. But there is more room for the nerve than before. Surgery for CTS may be done by different ways.

  • Endoscopic surgery: In this type of surgery, a telescope-like device with a tiny camera attached to it is used to operate. It is inserted in the carpal tunnel through small incisions in your hand or wrist. The endoscope allows your doctor to see inside your carpal tunnel and perform the surgery.
  • Open surgery: In this surgery, a larger incision is made in the palm of your hand over the carpal tunnel. The ligaments are cut to free the nerve.

After the surgery, you will be advised to start using your hand gradually, and work it back to normal use. Any forceful hand motions or extreme positions of the wrist should be avoided. Some people may feel soreness or weakness, for several weeks to as long as a few months, after the surgery. People with severe symptoms before surgery may not get complete relief after surgery.


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