Are You Struggling with Carpal Tunnel Pain?
My wrists burned. My fingers were either numb or had a sharp soreness.
I worked in document support role for a law firm that handled large business affairs. It was hour after hour of dictations and transcriptions of hearings, meetings, and trials. I typed furiously to get the job done quickly. I hated it, and it only got worse when my wrists started to feel stiff. The pain built up the middle of my wrist, and the burning starting seeping into my fingers and knuckles.
Small breaks and a lot of hand-stretching held me over for a little while, the discomfort soon became too much. I had been complaining about it enough that my coworker told me to try hand braces. She didn’t think they cost too much, maybe $20 each. I ran to Walmart on my next break.
What's followed has been a three-year experiment with different techniques, doctor visits, and tests to keep the pain at bay. It isn't constant. And I've found if I follow a few good habits and take a B6 supplement, it's more than manageable.
I also started learning more about proper working and sleeping posture since both are related to pain that can build in our hands, elbows, shoulders, and neck.
This site is my effort to aggregate, test, and pass along information gathered from doctors and experts, along with what I've learned from experience. Please note that some links may be affiliate links.
What Brace Helped me with Carpal Tunnel?
Technically, the brace that I bought that day wasn't a brace or a splint. However, the Mueller Wrist Stabilizer has been instrumental in helping me to get my wrist and finger pain under control. I got mine that day from Walmart, but the stabilizers are also available on Amazon.
The Mueller stabilizer is longer than most braces or splints in order to better secure your wrist. It restricts wrist flexion—flexing your wrist with an unnatural curve that starts from your fingers, rounds up through your hand to the your wrist and then falls back down the other side along your forearm. This is particularly a concern when you are typing. There's a certain posture you should have when working at a computer, and these will not only restrain your wrists from taking too sharp of an angle (if any), they serve as excellent reminders to correct the rest of your posture.
The Mueller stabilizer checks in at healthy 4.4 stars on Amazon and gets my seal of approval for its functionality, durability and washability. They won't win any beauty contests, however, with their medical appearance. The beige color darkens a little bit more with use to give it a nursing home aesthetic. But there are many options available that you can compare on my post about the best carpal tunnel wrist braces available.
What Size Should I Buy?
The stabilizers come in two sizes: Small/Medium and Large/Extra-Large. Surprisingly, after trying them on in the store, I bought the larger version. I am an average-sized man at 5'11" and a somewhat and sometimes lean 195 pounds, but my hands (6.75") are the size of an average adult female hand.
When Do I Wear the Braces?
I suggest wearing your braces whenever you are using a computer, tablet, or phone for any length of time past one quick interaction. You probably work in an office or on a computer often since carpal tunnel is a repetitive stress injury. Even if you aren’t doing the same work every day, most modern jobs include a lot of typing and navigating with a mouse. And that doesn't account for all that time we spend recreationally on personal computers, tablets, and phones.
But the best advice is to monitor your pain and use common sense. When the pain is worse or more consistent, keep them on even when not working. You need to stabilize your wrist so you stop aggravating your nerves further and allow the swelling to subside. So if your hands hurt, keep them on at all practical times. I would skip meals though. Anything that can cause them to get unnecessarily soiled saves you a wash.
There are other activities that can put strain on your wrists, from reading a book to holding a beer. If you will be holding something for a while, I put them on. I've even had to slide them on after long stretches of yard work. It's all a matter of comfort.
Lastly, I am a huge proponent of wearing them when I sleep. You wipe out any risks of you sleeping wrong and it gives your wrists extra time to heal every day. You likely always make sure to charge your cell phone while you're sleeping. Your wrists deserve the same luxury.
Can I Clean the Stabilizers?
Sure can. It's pretty easy. Just pop out the main metal plate that runs down the middle of your palm and forearm by sliding it up past the lip of the sleeve and pulling it out.
With regular washings, the Mueller wrist stabilizers can last anywhere from six months to a year with regular use.
It will depend on if you use them solely for working on your personal computer versus if you're using them both at work and home. And there will be more wear on them if you sleep in them (as I do). Even if you use them for all of the purposes, you should still get at least four months before the metal inserts start to wear out their cloth sleeves. they'll still be functional, and you'll have to push them back in every now and then, but they won't be your most attractive fashion accessory.
Should I See a Doctor?
If you have persistent and/or unmanageable pain, tingling or weakness, or the pain continues or gets worse after two weeks of using braces, see a doctor. Feel free to try the remedies the hand a wrist specialist gave me that ultimately worked and saved me from surgery, but do not let it get worse without seeking a qualified professional medical opinion of your unique situation.
The doctor I saw had extensive specialized experience. He has a thriving practice and would eventually perform surgery on my wife to remove a calcium deposit. She was referred by a different doctor than the one who referred me for my carpal tunnel symptoms. In conclusion, he is an authority on the subject.
After the assistant took all of my information and some preliminary measurements, the doctor spoke with me for a few minutes. He ordered a nerve conduction study to see how the carpal tunnel had progressed.
I was lucky that my damage was pretty limited. He was confident that vitamins, hand braces, proper posture, and occasional stretching would get my situation under control. It did.
He also suggested ibuprofen, most commonly purchased as Motrin or Advil, to suppress the inflammation and manage the pain. It won't knock out the pain entirely, but it did dull it enough to forget about it.
When the pain occasionally returns, I have found the main culprit is my phone. The pain is never immense, but it'll start to come back enough for me to take notice. More often than not, most of us will pick up our phones without a wrist brace on. We never plan to be on it long. Then we look up after wasting 15 minutes instead of 15 seconds on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest. That will take a toll on your hands and wrists. Most people hold their phone with it resting on their index, middle, and ring finders, with the pinkie finger nestled underneath for support.
Not only will this inflame your wrists and possibly aggravate your thumbs, it will also cause a pain in your pinkies. It's imperative that you try to limit your phone time because it's likely to be a lead conspirator every time a bout of carpal tunnel pain arises. I went so far as deleting my social media apps for this purpose. Plus, it has some serious productivity side benefits.
Are There Any Wrist Exercises to Help with Carpal Tunnel?
There are a number of different wrist exercises and stretches that can help. They are not likely to wipe out the condition on their own. Use these as a part of a well-coordinated plan that includes braces, vitamins, and proper working and sleeping posture.
The Prayer Stretch
So-named by me because it looks like an exaggerated version of the praying emoji. Push the tips of your hands against each other so that all of the knuckles align and push against each other. Don't push it too hard or too quick. Just let your hands sit in the stretched position for 5-10 seconds. You can then move your hands away and toward each other while keeping your fingertips touching (including your thumb).
Extend your hands in front of our chest with your fingertips pointing up. Then simply roll your hands in a circle while trying to keep your fingertips pointed toward whichever way your hand is turning. Obviously, your wrist isn't going to allow a full 360-degree rotation, so don't try to break your wrist in the name of healing.
Kiss the Ring
Extend your hand in front of you and let your hand hang at the wrist so your fingers are pointing toward the floor. Push or pull the hand toward yourself with the opposite hand slowly to stretch out the top of your wrists.
What's the Proper Posture When Working at a Computer?
The hand and arm surgeon along with his helpful staff were sure to pass along the proper posture in order to help keep the symptoms under control. Proper posture at the computer requires you to:
Sit back in a chair that is low enough for your shoes to rest flat on the floor and have your knees
line up with your hips.
- Ensure that your shoulders can rest easily as opposed to reaching up or down based on your armrests. (I’ve removed them from my office chair since they were too high.)
- Make sure your keyboard level allows your shoulders to stay relaxed as well.
- Pull up close to the keyboard, let your elbows hang so that your forearms, wrists, and hands are straight when using it.
Make sure that you take small breaks every half hour of work with five- to ten-minute breaks every hour. This will benefit your hands, shoulders, elbows, and eyes.
Can Vitamins Help Carpal Tunnel?
Yes. The same doctor that performed the tests (or rather read the results) wrote me a script for vitamin B-6. When I went back for my follow-up two weeks later and gave him a positive assessment of my pain, he remarked how often people just need proper posture and a little B-6.
As with any medication or supplement, you need to be smart. Everyday Health advises to talk to a doctor if you take more than 100 mg a day, which is how much I was prescribed and take daily now. But if the braces don't help on their own, you might be to a level where you need to see a medical professional anyway before going any further in your personal treatment.
You can find a great deal on vitamin B-6 at the Vitamin Shoppe, which sells a bottle of 100 capsules (100MG each) for $5.79. But you can save 10% and get free shipping if you sign up for auto delivery. They'll send you a new bottle at a time interval that you choose for a cheaper price. And the Vitamin Shoppe has a gracious return policy in case you change your mind.
As for the supplements themselves, I take them every morning with a generic Zyrtec. I have a sensitive stomach but haven’t noticed any issues.
Proper Sleeping Posture is Important
The best position when suffering with ailments related to carpal tunnel syndrome is on your back with your arms laid beside you. It's also quite helpful to get a contoured pillow to help keep your spine properly aligned.
It can be difficult to learn a new sleeping posture since those habits are instilled when we are young. I cheated and used NyQuil and now a generic sleeping pill from Costco in order to ensure a good night's sleep. Be careful when using those (or any) substances to sleep. Talk to your doctor or a medical professional you trust before you take anything, and the best advice I’ve received about sleeping is to fill your day so you go to bed tired. Seems elementary, but I use it as motivation to get things done during the day.
My name is Brandon Alisoglu. I'm a SEO Strategist with PMX Agency who has to wear wrist guards at the office every day. Let me know if this treatment works for you as well, or if you have any tips, because I'm always ready to learn the best tactics for relieving carpal tunnel pain.