How do medications treat carpal tunnel syndrome?

Sometimes a simple anti-inflammatory painkiller like aspirin or ibuprofen can help control the pain of carpal tunnel syndrome. This can be especially useful if your symptoms are due to another underlying medical condition that causes inflammation. For more severe symptoms, corticosteroid injections may be used. Corticosteroids such as cortisone help reduce swelling, which takes pressure off the median nerve. Doctors have found that corticosteroids are much more effective when injected right into the wrist than when taken by mouth, since they work faster right at the site of the swelling.

Dr. Rachel Rohde, MD
Orthopedic Surgeon
Oral medications usually are not helpful for carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms. Corticosteroid injections right into the carpal tunnel are thought to decrease inflammation. These generally are given by hand surgeons who are very familiar with the anatomy in the hand and wrist and can offer relief for people who have had symptoms only for a short period of time.


Dr. Prosper A. Benhaim, MD
Orthopedic Surgeon

In general, medications do not really produce much improvement in carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms. Typical over-the-counter medications, such as Tylenol, Advil, Aleve or similar medications can produce symptomatic relief temporarily, but do not typically lead to resolution of carpal tunnel syndrome long-term. In rare cases, if a person is prescribed oral steroid medication, such as prednisone, there can be improvement in carpal tunnel symptoms as the amount of swelling and edema around the median nerve reduce. For most people, however, oral steroid medication is not recommended because of the side effects associated with it. For appropriate people, an injection of cortisone into the carpal tunnel can often lead to significant improvement in symptoms, lasting many weeks or even many months. Some people with very mild carpal tunnel syndrome will respond quite well to a steroid injection into the carpal tunnel, but many people with moderate or severe carpal tunnel syndrome will have only a temporary improvement with a steroid injection into the carpal tunnel.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.