Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes, And Natural Relief Tips

Written by , MSc Shaheen Naser MSc Experience: 3 years
Last Updated on

Typing, writing, or any other activity that requires repetitive motions of your hands and fingers can cause carpal tunnel syndrome. Exposing your hands to constant stress is the main cause of this condition. You must be very careful because it has the potential to numb your hands/fingers forever. The only way out is to avail treatment as soon as this problem surfaces. And we have a list of some excellent home remedies to help you tackle carpal tunnel syndrome successfully. Read on to find out more about them.

What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

If you have been feeling tingling, numbness, or weakness in your hand, it indicates that you are suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome.

This condition occurs when there is pressure on your median nerve that runs along the length of your arm, goes through a passage in the wrist called the carpal tunnel, and ends at your hand.

This syndrome is characterized by the signs and symptoms mentioned below.

Signs And Symptoms Of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome can be divided into 3 stages:

The first stage of symptoms are usually mild and include:

  • A burning, tingling, or itching numbness in the palm of your hand
  • Your fingers may also be affected and may fall asleep and become numb, but the little finger is not affected.
  • Problem in moving your fingers
  • Clumsiness while holding objects
  • Pain that may extend to your elbow
  • Waking up to numb hands in the morning

The second stage of the symptoms is moderate and similar to the symptoms of the first stage. However, you will notice that they occur any time during the day or night, unlike the first stage. This hints that the disease is slowly progressing.

When left untreated, carpal tunnel syndrome can cause the median nerve to lose its function because of the constant pressure around it. This means that the disease has turned severe, and you will notice the third stage symptoms, such as:

  • Slowing down of nerve impulses
  • Loss of sensation in the fingers
  • Loss of strength, touch, and coordination of your fingers, especially your thumb

Although the first two stages of carpal tunnel syndrome are reversible, once the disease turns severe (i.e., third stage), no treatment can restore the normal functioning of the affected nerves.

To be able to treat carpal tunnel syndrome effectively, you must also have a fair idea about what is causing it.

Causes And Risk Factors

This medical condition can surface as a result of :

  • Repetitive motions that require your hands to be lower than your wrists, such as typing
  • Medical conditions like hypothyroidism, diabetes, or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Pregnancy

Also, some individuals are at a greater risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome than the others. They are:

  • Obesity
  • Trauma
  • Sex – Women are at a higher risk of developing this disease.

Some jobs can also put an individual at a higher risk of developing this medical issue such as:

  • Sewing
  • Knitting
  • Baking
  • Bank jobs, such as that of a cashier
  • Hairstyling
  • Musician

Many often get confused between arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome. Here are some of the major differences between both, which will clear the confusion.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Vs. Arthritis

  • While carpal tunnel syndrome results from irritation of the median nerve, arthritis refers to joint disorders that surface due to inflammation.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome mostly affects the thumb, index, and middle fingers, whereas arthritis can affect any joint of the body.
  • The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include tingling, numbness, pain, and weakness of the affected part. However, arthritis symptoms mainly include a limited function of the joint, pain, stiffness, swelling, and even joint deformities in some cases.
  • The cause of carpal tunnel syndrome is still unclear and is thought to be associated with pregnancy, arthritis, diabetes, and hypothyroidism. On the other hand, the cause of arthritis could be a joint injury, gout, a hereditary disorder, infection, or an overactive immune system.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome is reversible in the mild and moderate stages, but some forms of arthritis are irreversible.

Now that you have a clear-cut idea about how carpal tunnel syndrome is different from arthritis, let us move towards the diagnosis of the former.

To avail treatment, it is also necessary to diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome correctly. Any of the following diagnostic tests will help in confirming your condition.


Carpal tunnel syndrome is usually diagnosed by a physical assessment. It involves tapping the palm, side of your wrist or fully flexing your wrist by extending your arms completely.

There is also another test called EMG-NCV (Electromyography and Nerve Conduction Velocity) test that is used to measure the function of the nerve across the carpal tunnel.

A little delay in treating this medical issue can cause permanent damage. Hence, it is best to begin treatment as early as possible. To help you combat this condition naturally, here is a list of some of the best home remedies.

Natural Remedies To Treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

1. Essential Oils

a. Wintergreen Oil

You Will Need
  • 3 drops of wintergreen oil
  • 1 teaspoon of coconut oil (or any other carrier oil)
What You Have To Do
  1. Add three drops of wintergreen oil to a teaspoon of coconut oil.
  2. Mix well and apply it to the affected hand.
  3. Leave it on for 30 to 60 minutes before rinsing it off.
How Often You Should Do This

You must do this at least twice daily.

Why This Works

Wintergreen essential oil contains a compound called methyl salicylate that is great for relieving the pain, inflammation, and swelling associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. Its anti-inflammatory and analgesic activities provide almost instant relief from your symptoms (1).

b. Frankincense Oil

b. Frankincense Oil
Image: Shutterstock
You Will Need
  • 3-4 drops of frankincense oil
  • 1-2 teaspoons of coconut oil
What You Have To Do
  1. Mix frankincense essential oil with coconut oil in the specified quantities.
  2. Apply this mixture to the affected area and leave it on for 30 to 45 minutes.
  3. Rinse it off with water.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this once daily.

Why This Works

Frankincense oil is mainly used to treat ailments, given its pain-killing activities (2). It can, therefore, help a lot in treating carpal tunnel syndrome and its inflammatory and painful symptoms.

2. Ice Pack

2. Ice Pack
Image: Shutterstock
You Will Need

An ice pack

What You Have To Do
  1. Apply an ice pack to the affected hand.
  2. Hold it for about 2 minutes and remove.
  3. Repeat this process 2 to 3 times.
How Often You Should Do This

You must do this whenever the pain strikes for immediate relief.

Why This Works

Ice packs can help in reducing the pain, inflammation, and swelling that may occur as a result of pressure on the affected nerve (3).

3. Hot Massage Treatment

3. Hot Massage Treatment
Image: Shutterstock
You Will Need

Any carrier oil (coconut, olive, or jojoba oil)

What You Have To Do
  1. Heat your favorite carrier oil and gently massage it onto the affected area for a few minutes.
  2. Leave it on for 20 to 30 minutes.
  3. Wash it off.
How Often You Should Do This

You must do this once daily for quick relief.

Why This Works

A massage helps to improve blood circulation in the affected hand and reduces swelling and inflammation (4).

4. Castor Oil Pack

4. Castor Oil Pack
Image: Shutterstock
You Will Need
  • 1 tablespoon of castor oil
  • Gauze
What You Have To Do
  1. Take a tablespoon of cold pressed castor oil and apply it to the affected hand.
  2. Wrap a gauze around it.
  3. Leave it on for a couple of hours or overnight.
How Often You Should Do This

You must do this once daily.

Why This Works

Castor oil contains a compound called ricinoleic acid that is known to reduce inflammatory responses in the body and relieve symptoms of nerve compression (5).

5. Pen Grips

5. Pen Grips
Image: Shutterstock
You Will Need

A rubber pen grip

What You Have To Do
  1. Attach a pen grip to your pen.
  2. You can even replace an existing pen grip with this.
How Often You Should Do This

You must do this before you begin writing.

Why This Works

Pen grips are specially designed to alleviate symptoms of pain and discomfort that surface with carpal tunnel syndrome. They are also great for preventing further problems in your hands and fingers (6).

6. Vitamin B6 Diet

6. Vitamin B6 Diet
Image: Shutterstock
You Will Need

30-50 mg of vitamin B6

What You Have To Do
  1. Consume vitamin B6-rich foods like fish, bread, eggs, soya bean, and lots of vegetables.
  2. You can also take additional supplements for vitamin B6 after consulting your doctor.
How Often You Should Do This

You must include a small portion of vitamin B6 in your daily diet.

Why This Works

The inflammation that surfaces with CTS often causes a deficiency in vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine). Including small amounts of this vitamin in your daily diet can restore this deficiency, which, in turn, helps cure the condition (7).

7. Turmeric Powder And Milk

7. Turmeric Powder And Milk
Image: Shutterstock
You Will Need
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • 1 glass of hot milk
What You Have To Do
  1. Add a teaspoon of turmeric powder to a glass of hot milk.
  2. Mix well and drink it before the concoction turns cold.
How Often You Should Do This

You must drink this 1 to 2 times daily.

Why This Works

The presence of curcumin in turmeric makes it a powerful analgesic and anti-inflammatory remedy that helps reduce pain and inflammation effectively (8), (9).

8. Vicks VapoRub

8. Vicks VapoRub
Image: Shutterstock
You Will Need

Vicks VapoRub (as required)

What You Have To Do
  1. Apply a little Vicks VapoRub to the affected hand.
  2. Leave it on for 30 to 40 minutes and then rinse it off.
  3. You can also wrap a gauze around your hand after applying the ointment.
How Often You Should Do This

You must do this 1 to 2 times daily.

Why This Works

Vicks VapoRub contains compounds like camphor, eucalyptus oil, and menthol. All these compounds can help in reducing inflammation and reversing the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome (10), (11), (12).

In addition to these remedies, you should also consider adopting the following diet tips to combat CTS.

Diet Tips

You need to choose the right foods and avoid certain foods to deal with this condition effectively. Let’s look at them in detail.

Best Foods To Treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory foods can help a lot in the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome. They include:

  • Red bell peppers
  • Spinach
  • Salmon
  • Walnuts
  • Pineapple
  • Turmeric

As you increase your intake of the above foods, you must also restrict your intake of a few others.

Foods To Avoid

Foods that you need to avoid if you are suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome are:

  • Refined carbohydrates and sugary foods like desserts, soda, and chocolates
  • Salt and preservatives
  • Too much of dairy products
  • Processed and fried foods
  • Gluten
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol

Here are some more tips that will help prevent worsening of your condition.

Prevention Tips

  • Reduce the movement of the affected area. You can use a splint for this purpose.
  • Give acupuncture therapy a try, but only under medical supervision.
  • Practice stretching exercises and yoga.
  • Keep your wrists straight.
  • Avoid flexing or extending your wrists repeatedly.
  • Position your hands and wrists correctly while working.

These remedies and tips will surely help alleviate your condition. However, you need to understand that they are not quick or overnight fixes – they take time to show effective results. If your symptoms persist despite following the remedies and tips discussed in this article, consult an orthopedic specialist immediately to avoid permanent nerve damage.

Hope this post helps you deal with CTS. Did we answer all your queries? Tell us in the comments section below.

Expert’s Answers for Readers Questions

What happens if you don’t treat carpal tunnel syndrome?

If you do not treat carpal tunnel syndrome on time, the disease may progress and cause irreversible damage to your median nerve.

How long does a carpal tunnel surgery take?

A carpal tunnel surgery usually involves small incisions and takes only about 10 minutes.

How do you know if you need surgery for carpal tunnel?

If your symptoms are no more mild to severe, or if you begin developing symptoms for longer and they interrupt your day to day life, you might need to go for surgery.

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Shaheen Naser
Shaheen NaserHealth & Wellness Writer
Shaheen holds a postgraduate degree in Human Genetics and Molecular Biology from Bharathiar University. She is a Geneticist with proficiency in Biotechnology, Immunology, Medical Genetics, Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Genetic Counseling.

Read full bio of Shaheen Naser
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