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How to Stop the Pain and Inflammation of Carpal Tunnel & Avoid Surgery

Tingling, numbness and pain in your wrist — you may have carpal tunnel syndrome. While a doctor’s diagnosis is needed to determine whether or not you have this condition, there are some natural ways to relieve the pain and inflammation of carpal tunnel syndrome that don’t involve surgery. From the old standby of alternating heat and cold applications to herbal supplements, vitamin D and exercise, there are a number of options to help mitigate the effects of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Carpal tunnel syndrome facts

Carpal tunnel syndrome, commonly referred to as “carpal tunnel,” occurs when the median nerve in the forearm becomes inflamed. This nerve runs through the carpal tunnel of the wrist — a passageway with bone on three sides and a ligament on the fourth. Certain illnesses or conditions can cause carpal tunnel syndrome. Other causes are repetitive movements of the hand and working for long stretches of time without changing position.

Carpal tunnel syndrome can occur in one or both hands, and the condition causes symptoms like numbness, tingling or pain in the hand and arm. Using an affected hand can make symptoms worse. Read on for ways to relieve many of the symptoms associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.

Apply heat and cold

If you suffer from carpal tunnel pain, alternating between a heating pad and an ice pack may bring you relief. Cold reduces swelling and inflammation by slowing the blood flow to your wrist, while heat encourages blood flow and therefore healing. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, applying a moist warmth to an injury, in the form of gel packs, a hot water bottle or a heating pad, helps the warmth to penetrate the skin better. It will also prevent your skin from drying out.

Unless instructed otherwise by a healthcare provider, apply heat for a maximum of 20 minutes. If your wrist is swollen, however, start by icing it for up to 20 minutes at a time either with a zipper bag of ice or a gel pack. Ice packs should always be wrapped in a towel to prevent injury to your skin.

Food-based and herbal supplements

A number of food-based and herbal supplements on the market may help reduce the pain and inflammation of carpal tunnel syndrome naturally. Try sipping some chamomile tea. Not only does it have a relaxing effect on your mind, but it also contains three anti-inflammatory compounds: bisabolol, chamazulene and cyclic ethers. Another food-based supplement to try is bromelain. Derived from pineapple, bromelain works to reduce inflammation for just about any condition.

Dr. James A. Duke, a leading authority on healing herbs, suggests adding powdered cayenne pepper to lotion for a quick topical remedy that capitalizes on capsaicin’s anti-inflammatory properties. He also suggests integrating turmeric into your diet to take advantage of curcumin’s power to reduce pain and inflammation. Other supplements that may aid in reducing the pain and inflammation of carpal tunnel syndrome include cumin, comfrey, lavender and willow.

Vitamin D

Plagued by inflammation and pain in your wrists? It might be worth your while to have your vitamin D levels tested. According to a study from Denmark, patients with chronic pain may benefit from vitamin D supplements. While the study admits that vitamin D doesn’t cure pain, the inexpensive and relatively safe supplementation of the vitamin can help. Those who suffer from chronic pain often have lowered levels of vitamin D when tested.


When we are injured, we have the tendency to avoid activity, namely exercising. Yet when we slow down, so too does our tolerance for activity. Even those of us who suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome should be exercising. The act itself releases endorphins, which reduce pain, stress, depression and anxiety.

If you take a yoga class, chat with your instructor. He or she should be able to instruct you on the best asana modifications for wrist health. He or she may also be able to recommend some exercises specifically for the wrist and forearm that will help with pain and inflammation.

Omega-3 fatty acids

An easy way to reduce inflammation in the body is to make sure you’re consuming enough omega-3 fatty acids. These polyunsaturated fats have been shown to reduce symptoms in people with autoimmune diseases and inflammation. The best fats to add to your diet or supplement regimen are fish oil EPA and DHA omega-3 fats. According to the Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health in Washington, D.C., subjects with inflammatory and autoimmune diseases like lupus, multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and other conditions have benefited from the addition of fish oil in their diets.

Only a few of the many options for treating the pain and inflammation of carpal tunnel syndrome have been highlighted here. With a little bit of time and patience, you may be able to alleviate your symptoms without having to resort to surgery.

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