Many people suffering from Carpal Tunnel often ask if this disease is curable. It can be difficult to get straight answers to this question as many of the common treatments can require on-going medications and recurring surgery.
From my experience, however, Carpal Tunnel is curable for all but the worst cases.
There are a wide range of approaches to treating this condition and it is worth understanding these in order to determine the best course of action:
- Rest your hands. Generally the symptoms will ease if you rest your hands. The condition is normally caused by overuse of your hands which results in inflammation and pain. This really means total rest for a number of weeks from whatever is overexerting your hands. Some forms of movement are particularly bad. Heavy typing can be problematic, but many power tools which vibrate are the worst and are linked to other conditions such as vibration short finger.
- Hand and Wrist Splints. Where your job involves the movements that are causing the problem, it can be difficult to take sufficient rest to fully cure the problem. This is particularly true for anyone who is self-employed. Splints are similar to those used for leg and arm fractures and immobilize the hand and wrist to provide support and minimise any aggravating movements. These can be effective and are fairly cheap to buy.
- Hand and Wrist Supports. In addition to rigid splints, there are also other aids such as gloves which provide some support, but are more flexible. This can let you perform a wider range of activities and are generally less restrictive than splints.
- Dietary Supplements. Similar to arthritis, there are a wide range of supplements that can help minimise pain and inflammation. Many foods have anti-inflammatory properties that help to reduce any swelling and discomfort. Essential Fatty Acids are a key part of a healthy diet and deficiencies have been shown to contribute to joint problems in general and arthritis. Omega 3 has been shown in many studies to help inflammation, but there are dozens of other supplements that can make a real difference.
- Poor Diet. Just as supplements can help reduce inflammation, it is equally true that some foods contribute directly to inflammation. Acidic foods such as some fruits, processed foods and preservatives increase acidity. Drinks such as wine, coffee and tea can also be very acidic. Combined with repetitive movements, these can exceed your body’s ability to repair itself.
- Medication. Doctors frequently prescribe various drugs to reduce inflammation and pain. These can help, but are not a cure as they work by treating the symptoms. These tend to have many side effects which can be cause additional problems especially if they are taken over a long period of time. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs often referred to as NSAIDs and corticosteroids are the main medications used.
- Surgery. This is usually the final resort where other approaches have failed. There are number of forms of surgery which involve cutting / shortening the transverse carpal ligament which can relieve pressure to the median nerve located in the wrist. This procedure can help, but there are 2 significant issues. The procedure seems to have a fairly low success rate depending on the source of data. Some experts have questions publically quote success rates and suspect that effectiveness is less than 50%. The procedure often is temporary requiring additional surgery in a few years. There are limits to how many times this can be performed as it is shortening an important ligament. The main side effect is that it weakens the grip making some day to day activities such as opening jars difficult.
- Exercises. Another, less publicised approach, is to use exercise to strengthen the ligaments, tendons and muscles in the wrists and hands. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that this can help many people reduce or eliminate the condition. Generally if you wished to excel as an athlete, you would need to train regularly to improve or in your sport. It can be argued that if day to day activities are causing the problem, the solution should be to strengthen your wrists and hands to cope with the load being placed upon them. There are virtually no exercise systems which seem to target these areas.
However, this is not true in the Far East. Many of the eastern martial arts ran headlong into the problem that regularly kicking and punching causes damage to the joints and hands. Their very training exercises cause carpal tunnel and arthritis! Many of the older system evolved to minimise damage to their practitioners and also repair damage when it did happen.
Many practitioners of the harder Shaolin type styles turned to Tai Chi and other softer arts in their 30’s to reverse the damage done by years of over training. Seeking out a practitioner of Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture and Tai Chi can be another avenue worth exploring.
There are specific sets of exercises often referred to as Tendon exercises and Bone Chi Kung that specifically repair and strengthen these areas.
For more information about how to prevent and treat Carpal Tunnel, see our special report