Natural Ways to Relieve Carpal Tunnel

carpal tunnel syndrome
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Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that causes pain, numbness, and tingling in the fingers or hands, particularly the thumb, index, middle, or ring fingers. Loss of sensation in the fingers and weakness in the hands can also occur.

The median nerve, which is connected to the hand, is compressed as it passes through the carpal tunnel, the narrow passageway of bones and ligaments on the underside of the wrist.

A combination of factors can contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome such as repetitive finger and hand use, various health conditions (e.g. obesity, pregnancy, hypothyroidism, arthritis, and diabetes), and direct injury or trauma to the wrist.  

Remedies for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

So far, scientific support for the claim that any remedy can treat carpal tunnel syndrome is scant. Here's a look at eight integrative therapies:

1) Acupuncture

Acupuncturists insert thin needles into specifics point on the body. Traditional theory holds blockages along energy pathways in the body, called meridians, can cause pain. Acupuncture releases these blockages and improves the flow of energy along meridians.

A scientific explanation is that acupuncture may release natural pain-relieving chemicals into the body, promote circulation in the body, and balance the nervous system.

What is a treatment like? For carpal tunnel syndrome, acupuncture points are generally on the wrist, arm, thumb, and hands, as well as other parts of the body such as the upper back, neck, and leg.

The number of acupuncture sessions depends on various factors such as how long you've had the symptoms, symptom intensity, how much you use your arms and hands, and your overall health.

Laser acupuncture, which uses a handheld laser instead of acupuncture needles, is also used for carpal tunnel syndrome.

One study looked at 36 people with a median pain duration of 24 months. Fourteen had one to 2 surgical release procedures with no results. After three laser acupuncture sessions a week for 4 to 5 weeks, 33 people had no pain or their pain was reduced by more than 50 percent. All of the people who had failed surgery had a noticeable improvement. Acupuncture wasn't a quick-fix-the follow-up after 1-2 years found that pain returned for only 2 people out of 23 people, and they were successfully treated within several weeks.

2) Acupressure

Acupressure is based on the same principles as acupuncture. Instead of applying needles to acupuncture points, the pressure is applied, which is thought to stimulate blood flow to the wrists and hands and ease numbness and swelling in the area.

Acupressure points for carpal tunnel syndrome are typically on the wrists, forearms, and hands.

Here is an example of how to do acupressure for carpal tunnel syndrome.

3) Alpha-Lipoic Acid

Also known as ALA, alpha-lipoic acid is an antioxidant produced naturally in the body and also available in supplement form. Preliminary research has explored the use of alpha-lipoic acid in combination with gamma-linolenic acid for carpal tunnel syndrome.

Although improvement in symptoms has been noted, studies have not had a placebo control group, making the findings inconclusive. 

4) Vitamin B6

There are various theories behind the use of vitamin B6 supplementation for carpal tunnel syndrome. Some proponents claim that vitamin B6 deficiency may lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, while others hypothesize that vitamin B6 promotes pain relief due to its antinociceptive properties (which reduce sensitivity to pain). It has also been suggested that vitamin B6 supplementation may provide relief because it addresses an undetected peripheral neuropathy (a condition that causes damage to the peripheral nerves).

So far, research on the effectiveness of vitamin B6 supplementation has been mixed. At least two studies have found that vitamin B6 didn't significantly improve symptoms. 

Found in a wide variety of foods, the richest sources of vitamin B6 are fish, organ meats, potatoes other starchy vegetables, fortified cereals, beef, poultry, and some fruits such as bananas and mangoes. 

Although some sources say that vitamin B6 supplementation under 200 mg/day is not likely to result in adverse effects, it's important to discuss whether supplementation might be appropriate for you before trying it. High doses have resulted in nerve damage in some individuals. People taking B6 supplements for extended periods should be monitored by their health care provider.

5) Yoga

Preliminary studies have explored whether yoga can be helpful for people with carpal tunnel syndrome. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at the effectiveness of yoga for 42 people with carpal tunnel syndrome. People in the yoga group did 11 yoga postures, designed for strengthening, stretching, and balancing each joint in the upper body, twice weekly for 8 weeks. Those in the control group wore wrist splints. At the end of the eight weeks, people in the yoga group had significant improvement in grip strength and pain, and there was an improvement in the Phalen sign. 

6) Chiropractic

A study compared chiropractic care to conservative care (ibuprofen and night-time wrist supports) in 91 people with carpal tunnel syndrome. Chiropractic care included manipulation of the soft tissues and body joints of the arms and spine, ultrasound over the carpal tunnel, and night-time wrist supports. Researchers concluded that chiropractic was as effective as conventional care for carpal tunnel syndrome.

Other Remedies

  • Enzyme supplements such as serrapeptasebromelain and papain are sometimes suggested by alternative medicine proponents to reduce tissue swelling associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. 
  • Feldenkrais is a form of movement re-education. People are taught individually or in group sessions how to move their bodies more efficiently to improve their coordination, reduce joint stress and muscle strain, and improve flexibility. 

  • Hellerwork is a form of bodywork that has three main components: 1) deep tissue work - treatment usually begins with work on the soft tissues around the forearm and wrist; 2) education about correct posture and movement, ergonomic assessment of the workstation (e.g. chair too low, monitor too high); 3) dialogue to address emotions that lock muscles into "holding patterns" and affect breathing.

Using Natural Therapies

Supplements and other forms of alternative medicine haven't been tested for safety and keep in mind that the safety in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications have not been established. You can get tips on using supplements here, but if you're considering the use of alternative medicine in the treatment of any condition, talk with your primary care provider first. Delaying or avoiding standard care can have serious consequences.


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