Expert Advice

How can I treat carpal tunnel?

Our three experts offer holistic fixes, such as yoga, stretching, and acupuncture, for your sore wrist.

How can I treat carpal tunnel?
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Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the arm’s median nerve is pinched in the narrow passageway located on the inside of your wrist (the carpal tunnel).
TREATMENT I do a clinical diagnosis and confirm my assessment with an electrodiagonistic test. To relieve and control symptoms temporarily, I administer a cortisone injection to the wrist. For severe cases, I may perform surgery to release the ligament on the roof of the carpal tunnel, which expands the passageway and gives more space to the median nerve.”
SELF-HELP Try ibuprofen or naproxen, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that can provide temporary pain relief and reduce inflammation. To prevent a relapse, try wrist stretches (pressing the back of your hand down for 15 seconds and then pushing your fingers back for 15 seconds). —Meijuan Zhao, M.D., instructor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School and physiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital

Stress on the wrist begins in the upper body, where slouching or a sunken chest may compress and disrupt nerves that link to the arm and wrist.
TREATMENT I check your posture and postural habits, making sure your head is aligned with your spinal column and that you aren’t leaning too far forward when you sit. I also correct breathing by teaching you how to lengthen the breath and breathe into the belly, which helps mobilize the chest and ribs and reduces stress.”
SELF-HELP Try a modified version of Downward Facing Dog, placing your hands on a desk with your hips folded slightly. Or, try a simple doorway back bend: Walk into a doorway, and let each hand catch on the door frame. With your feet just forward of the door and hands on the door frame edge behind you, look up and arch your back gently, opening your chest. Hold this pose for at least five minutes. —Timothy McCall, M.D., author of Yoga as Medicine: The Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing (Bantam, 2007)

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), carpal tunnel syndrome is considered a symptom of weak qi (energy) flow and blood stagnation in the wrist.
TREATMENT I get a health history and conduct a TCM medical evaluation to assess any imbalances. To invigorate blood circulation, I perform acupuncture on the inside of the wrist, along the pericardium, heart, and lung meridians, and then focus on distal points such as the ear. I may also apply an herbal plaster, containing herbs baked into a bandage, or prescribe herbal formulas to get blood moving.”
SELF-HELP Avoid repetitive activities that apply pressure to your wrist such as typing uninterrupted for long periods of time. To strengthen wrists, hold one- to three-pound weights or a soup can and curl the weight toward your wrists and away from them. Apply ice to your wrist to relieve inflammation and swelling. —Beth Kohn, L.Ac., M.T.O.M, Dipl.Ac, Dipl.CH, of the Henry Ford Center for Integrative Medicine