Nonsurgical Therapy for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome does not usually involve surgery. Your NYU Langone doctor may recommend that you rest the affected hand and wrist for a few weeks. He or she can also tell you which activities should be avoided to prevent symptoms from worsening. You may need to immobilize your wrist in a splint for a few weeks or longer to help lessen your symptoms.
In addition, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following nonsurgical treatments.
Because carpal tunnel syndrome is often job related, NYU Langone occupational therapists can work with you to ensure your daily routine does not aggravate your symptoms. An efficient way to do this is by focusing on ergonomics—the process of reducing stress and eliminating injuries associated with the overuse of muscles, poor posture, and repeated tasks in the workplace.
Our occupational therapists can perform an ergonomic evaluation with the goal of adapting your work environment to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome or reduce its symptoms. They can recommend workstation modifications that suit anyone’s needs—from office workers to athletes to musicians—without sacrificing performance.
An ergonomic evaluation might consist of an occupational therapist observing how you use your workstation—for example, where you place your mouse or how you sit in your chair, if you work in an office. The therapist then collaborates with you and your employer to make simple changes in your daily environment that can reduce your symptoms.
Your doctor may recommend strengthening and stretching exercises for your wrist or hand. Hand therapy is provided on an outpatient basis at NYU Langone. Our certified hand therapists—who are physical or occupational therapists—specialize in treating people with hand and wrist conditions. They have at least five years of experience and have completed additional training and certification in hand therapy. Our therapists work with you and your doctor to create an individualized treatment plan, with the goal of helping you return to your prior level of function.
Although you may initially visit your hand therapist several times per week, you can perform the necessary exercises at home after you’ve learned the correct techniques.
Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, can help to reduce inflammation in the carpal tunnel and stop symptoms from worsening. When over-the-counter pain relievers do not relieve your pain, your doctor may recommend an injection of steroids into the carpal tunnel to further reduce symptoms. He or she can administer this injection in the office.