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If you have noticed that your hands and wrists are developing feelings of tingling, numbness, weakness or pain, you may be suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. Welcome to the club. The membership is free and no one wants to join. Carpal tunnel syndrome or CTS occurs when the median nerve that runs down your arm, into your wrist, and ends in your hand has constant pressure applied to it. Symptoms can increase in severity over time, leading to loss of feeling and strength in the hands. Thankfully there are affordable and non-invasive products that can help alleviate the effects of carpal tunnel.
As someone who has spent the majority of my workdays typing for the past 15 years, developing carpal tunnel seemed almost inevitable. When I transitioned from working in an office to working from home eight years ago, I noticed the pain in my wrists and hands gradually worsened, something I attribute to the lack of breaks in my new schedule (oh, how I miss mid-morning strolls with co-workers to our favorite coffee shop). Practicing yoga became increasingly difficult as every down-dog put pressure on my already sore wrists. Waking up with numbness in my fingers that lasted all day became commonplace, forcing me to seek out treatments to help relieve the pain and stop the effects of CTS before they got even worse. It was either that or hope I won the lottery and could retire in my mid-30s. A $14 wrist brace seemed like a better plan.
CTS is often caused by repetitive wrist motions, typically from an activity that occurs while your hands are lower than your wrist. Typing, that means you. Cashiers, hairstylists, musicians, assembly-line workers and anyone who performs repetitive motions for extended periods are all at risk of developing CTS. Arthritis, obesity, and diabetes can worsen CTS, as can pregnancy. Arthritis in the hands and wrists can often lead to CTS and the two typically go hand in hand (that was a very depressing pun). Thankfully, the at-home treatments for both follow in the same vein of rest, ice and reduce inflammation.
If you think you may be suffering from CTS, the best first course of action is to see your doctor, who may perform a Tinel sign test. Identifying the repetitive motion that is causing your CTS and eliminating it or reducing it if possible is the next step. To help relieve pain from CTS and stop it from progressing, we’ve put together a list of some of the most effective natural treatments. From wrist braces to workout products, these items can help reduce your pain caused by carpal tunnel syndrome. That deserves a very gentle high five.
1. Mueller Fitted Wrist Brace
When you Google ‘how to treat carpal tunnel,’ the product that consistently appears first is a wrist brace. I would also put a wrist brace as my number one ‘must-have’ when dealing with carpal tunnel because, well, they work. I wish there was a sexier, cooler-looking answer, but here we are. The Mueller Fitted Wrist Brace is one of the best on the market and has been my trusted sleeping companion for years (now we’re getting sexy). The company sells their wrist braces in two sizes and for left or right hands. The brace is easy to put on and tighten with two large Velcro straps and provides a high level of support to the wrists, holding them in place while you work, type or sleep. Made from recycled materials, the brace is affordable, which is good news because eventually, it will smell. It’s machine washable, which helps for a bit, but replacing your brace twice a year is a small price to pay for wrists that aren’t in constant agony. I recommend investing in a brace that you can wear while sleeping, cleaning (vacuuming is tough on the wrists) and working out, with the brace not only keeping your wrist in-line but also acting as a reminder to practice good form with your movements.
2. Perfect Fitness Perfect Pushup Elite
BEST FOR WORKOUTS
Trying to do pushups while your wrists are already inflamed is a great way to cause yourself even more pain. If you like to work out at home, the Perfect Fitness Perfect Pushup Elite handles help to get in a great sweat session without having to get creative every time your want to work your arms and chest. I’ve been using these handles during my at-home virtual workout classes for a few weeks and have been able to keep up with my instructor’s relentless love of push-ups without my wrists instantly aching. The handles rotate slightly to help engage more muscles and are designed with an ergonomic grip to help relieve the pressure on the wrists, elbows and joints. Even with the handles, push-ups can still be tough on joints, so a combo of using the Pushup Elite and weighted chest presses with my wrists held straight has been an effective compromise.
3. Wrist Ice Pack Wrap by ARRIS
BEST ICE PACK
For anyone who suffers from carpal tunnel, investing in an ice pack that is designed specifically for your wrists is money well spent. Icing wrists is a fast, easy and effective way to help reduce swelling and inflammation and treat pain caused by carpal tunnel flare-ups. The Wrist Ice Pack Wrap by ARRIS can be used cold or microwaved and slides into a sleeve that fits comfortably on either left or right wrists. For frequent icers, this pack makes it easy to continue working, cleaning or relaxing while icing your wrists. That may not seem like a big selling feature until you try holding a hard plastic ice pack or a towel of melting ice cubes on your wrists twice a week. Trust me, it’s a big feature.
4. J.R. Watkins Cooling Gel
FOR DAILY PAIN RELIEF
Cooling sprays that use menthol are a fast and effective way to get some relief from carpal tunnel pain. J.R. Watkins has a line of Cooling products in gel, roll-on, patch and spray form, making it easy to choose a product that will provide relief. Using menthol as a counterirritant to distract users from pain, arnica to reduce swelling and improve healing, and Vitamin E to address stiffness in joints and muscles, cooling products are an easy way to access natural pain relief at home or on the go.
5. Voltaren Gel
FOR INTENSE PAIN RELIEF
When your carpal tunnel is at its most painful, carefully reach (gentle on the wrists!) for a tube of Voltaren Gel. A medicated gel that does not require a prescription, Voltaren Gel can help relieve pain after more natural methods (ice, cooling sprays and wrist braces) haven’t provided enough relief. The gel works by pooling diclofenac on the top of the skin, then moving through the skin to help relieve pain caused by inflammation while also reducing swelling. Voltaren Gel is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drug, similar to ibuprofen and aspirin, and should not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women.
6. Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard for Business
BEST ERGONOMIC KEYBOARD
Typing is a big culprit of carpal tunnel and one of the best ways to help alleviate symptoms is by using an ergonomic keyboard. Split keyboards have been touted as one of the best options for carpal tunnel typists and typists in general since they allow people to keep their forearms and wrists in natural alignment with their shoulders. For right-handed typists, the Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard for Business is a great option because users can move the number pad either to the left side of the keyboard or further to the right, allowing for the mouse to be kept closer to the keyboard and more in line with the shoulders, helping to reduce strain caused by awkward arm and wrist positions for an extended period.
7. Logitech MX Ergo Wireless Trackball Mouse
Typing is hard on wrists and so is scrolling, which is why investing in a mouse designed with healthy ergonomics in mind is key to keeping your wrists pain-free. The Logitech MX Ergo Wireless Trackball Mouse has an ergonomic sculpted design that allows users to adjust the angle of the trackback from 0 to 20 degrees, helping to find the most natural, relaxed hand position possible which will reduce strain on the wrist. The mouse is designed to conform to the user’s hand and has a shape that allows the hand to relax between scrolls and clicks instead of remaining engaged, which can fatigue the muscles and add strain to the joints. The trackball is controlled by the thumb, which may feel awkward at first, but this feature means no more moving the mouse (and your wrist) around the mousepad.
8. Nuance Dragon Home Dictation Software
BEST FOR DICTATING
I’ve previously written about my love for Nuance’s Dragon Dictation and will continue to do so. Dictating has been one of the biggest lifesavers for my wrists and has made it possible to continue ‘typing’ for hours on, end every day, without lifting a finger. Literally. If you spend your workday composing emails, drafting press releases, writing essays or messaging members of your team, Dragon Dictation can give your wrists the rest they desperately need. Also, consider some Blue Light glasses for your poor peepers.