Some people with carpal tunnel syndrome can get relief with nonsurgical treatments — others may need surgery to relieve their symptoms.

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the medial nerve in your wrist gets pinched, causing pain, tingling, or numbness in your hand and fingers.

For most people, carpal tunnel syndrome will worsen gradually over time without treatment. Luckily, there are a number of carpal tunnel treatments to help relieve your symptoms.

Nonsurgical Treatments for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Your doctor will probably start off by recommending nonsurgical treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome, especially if your symptoms are mild and there’s no sign that your median nerve has been damaged.

Nonsurgical treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome include these options:

Carpal Tunnel Brace Wearing a splint or brace around your wrist can help reduce pressure on the median nerve by keeping your wrist in a neutral or straight position. Your doctor may recommend wearing the brace at night to keep your wrist from bending while you sleep. It may also help to wear the brace during daytime activities that aggravate your symptoms, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Wrist splinting is often the first line of treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome.

Over-the-Counter Medicine Over-the-counter pain medicines, including ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve), can temporarily relieve pain and inflammation in some people with carpal tunnel syndrome, but these medicines won’t treat the underlying cause of the pain.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine Treatments Yoga may help reduce pain in some people with carpal tunnel syndrome, but the evidence here is limited, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). Some people report relief with acupuncture or chiropractic treatments, though the NINDS says more studies are needed to evaluate the effectiveness of these therapies for carpal tunnel syndrome.

Carpal Tunnel Exercises There are some at-home exercises you can try for carpal tunnel syndrome, but studies are mixed on how much these exercises really help. Carpal tunnel exercises may be most effective when paired with another carpal tunnel treatment, such as a wrist splint or steroid injections.

Trying Simple Carpal Tunnel Exercises

Basic carpal tunnel exercises to try include these movements:

Gently shake your hands or wrists until the pain or numbness goes away.

Make a fist. One at a time, release each finger until all your fingers are pointing at the ceiling and it looks like you are telling someone to stop with your hand. Repeat 5 to 10 times.

Make a fist, then open your hand by fanning your fingers out one at a time. Repeat 5 to 10 times.

Place your arm straight in front of you with your fingers facing the floor. Use your other hand to push down slightly on the downward-facing hand, stretching your hand and fingers as far as they will go. Hold that position for about 20 seconds.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome During Pregnancy

Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause swelling of the tissues around the carpal tunnel, leading to hand and wrist pain.

Carpal tunnel syndrome typically goes away on its own after pregnancy. Nonsurgical therapies — for instance, wearing a carpal tunnel brace at night — may help ease symptoms in the meantime. Pregnancy-related carpal tunnel syndrome does not usually require surgery.