Alternative medicine for carpal tunnel syndrome

Nowadays, many people are looking for more natural solutions to relieve their pain. Alternative medicine offers multiple solutions to complement medical treatments for carpal tunnel: exercises, acupuncture, massage, yoga stretches, etc. Find out more about the techniques discussed in scientific studies, and their effectiveness on carpal tunnel symptoms.

How effective are essential oils? Is acupuncture beneficial? Are there any exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome or massage to relieve it? EPITACT® tells you all about alternative medicine for carpal tunnel syndrome!


What is alternative medicine?

According to the WHO(1), alternative medicine is "the sum total of knowledge, skills and practices based on the theories, beliefs and experiences of different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in the maintenance of health and in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental illness".

In other words, they are therapeutic approaches that have not been scientifically proven. There are thought to be around 400 practices: acupuncture, homeopathy, mesotherapy, osteopathy, hypnotherapy, naturopathy, phytotherapy, reflexology, etc.


How can alternative medicine be used for carpal tunnel?

More and more scientific studies are carried out to assess the effectiveness of certain natural treatments like massage and exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome or other diseases. Although these are natural techniques, it is important to establish their effectiveness and safety in the short and long term.

For many conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, alternative medicine is used as a complement to modern medicine, to support health or medical treatment. It offers a wider range of methods for relieving the symptoms of incurable diseases or the side-effects of certain conventional methods. Generally speaking, it improves mental and emotional well-being, as well as patient satisfaction(1).

However, alternative medicine is not harmless, so always ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice.


Treating carpal tunnel syndrome with essential oils

Essential oils can be used to complement medical and drug treatments for CTS. Although they cannot cure carpal tunnel syndrome, essential oils can at least soothe the joints. Wintergreen essential oil combined with Arnica vegetable oil, applied as a gentle massage, helps to keep joints comfortable(2).


Acupuncture for carpal tunnel syndrome

Acupuncture for carpal tunnel syndrome is part of the conservative treatments. However, there is no consensus on this approach in the scientific literature(3). Acupuncture for carpal tunnel does not therefore appear to be particularly recommended in the treatment of this condition. However, it is worth mentioning the results of a study(4) carried out on 18 pregnant women with CTS. It revealed that 95% of them felt relief from their carpal tunnel symptoms with acupuncture.

As for acupressure (the application of pressure points with the fingers rather than needles, as in acupuncture), there are no studies showing its benefits for CTS.


Wrist braces as a complement to alternative medicine

In addition to acupuncture, massage and exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome, wrist support braces help to relieve pain. They are medical devices considered as conservative treatments for CTS.

Made from flexible materials, the CARP'ACTIV wrist support* relieve pain during your daily activities without restricting your movements. Its effectiveness is based on its proprioceptive fabric, which alerts you to traumatic movements and encourages you to correct them.

This type of brace is often indicated in addition to wearing an immobilisation brace at night*. By holding the wrist in a neutral position, it reduces the pressure in the carpal tunnel, breaking the circle of irritation and inflammation and helping the nerve to recover.


Just rest?

It is estimated that carpal tunnel syndrome develops naturally in around a third of cases. This means that the symptoms disappear without the affected person having received any treatment. This spontaneous resolution generally occurs in early and mild cases of the condition.

However, little is known about the factors that predict this natural course. We do know, for example, that spontaneous recovery is more likely to be expected in pregnant women or in cases of unusually intense use of the hand. In fact, the condition recedes more often after childbirth or cessation of the temporary activity in question(5).

Waiting for symptoms to evolve naturally in no way prevents the simultaneous use of alternative medicine for carpal tunnel like physiotherapy (exercises and stretches), massage, essential oils...


Carpal tunnel massage

In the case of carpal tunnel syndrome, massage of strategic areas is thought to help relieve symptoms and improve functional abilities(6, 7). Carpal tunnel massage can be carried out by a therapist, by yourself under their supervision, or alone at home, and includes a few techniques:

  • Effleurage involves lightly rubbing the inside of the forearm with the hand. It relaxes the muscles, encourages the return of blood, and has a sedative effect on the nerves.
  • Kneading involves grasping and pressing the muscles while lifting them from the underlying structures. This reduces muscle pain and improves muscle tone and elasticity to prevent atrophy.
  • Friction is applied using rapid circular or linear movements with the thumb or fingers. It improves circulation, relieving oedema and releasing adhesions and scar tissue.
  • Shaking the hand helps relieve pain.

You can also massage the muscles in the palm of your hand by applying circular pressure with your thumb. To ensure you massage the carpal tunnel correctly, in the right place and for the right length of time, consult your healthcare professional.


Carpal tunnel exercises and stretches

In addition to massage, carpal tunnel exercises based on stretches help to relieve pain. They are supervised by a physiotherapist, who can teach you a few exercises to do on your own at home.

Manual therapy by a physiotherapist

Physiotherapy exercises for carpal tunnel are carried out in the office of your physical therapist. They involve stretching exercises and passive mobilisation of the nerve, muscles and tendons, such as the ULNT (Upper Limb Neural Tension test)(6) neurodynamic mobilisation tests. These involve mobilising surrounding structures such as the elbow, shoulder, and neck. He can also perform specific massages around the carpal tunnel to relax muscles.

Carpal tunnel stretches at home

  • Exercise 1: Stretch the annular ligament using sliding movements with the fingers(8). This exercise for carpal tunnel syndrome involves placing two thumbs on the two muscles at the base of the palm of the hand and sliding them transversely from the inside to the outside of the hand.
  • Exercise 2: Stretch your arm to the side to stretch the nerve along its entire path.
  • Exercise 3: Stretch the flexor tendons by alternating finger flexions and extensions.
  • Exercise 4: Stretch the wrist: with your arm stretched out in front of you, palm up, pull your fingers downwards for a few seconds with your other hand, then upwards to "close" the wrist(9).
  • Exercise 5 for carpal tunnel: Totem and Hunter exercises to mobilise the tendons. Each of the following positions is held for about 6 seconds and repeated 10 times, 3 times a day(10) :Tendon stretching exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome

    1 = straight. 2 = hook. 3 = fist. 4 = shelf. 5 = right fist.

  • Exercise 6: Totem and Hunter exercises to mobilise the median nerve. Each position is held for approximately 6 seconds and repeated 10 times, 3 to 5 times a day according to studies(10, 11) :Nerve stretches for carpal tunnel syndrome
    A = Wrist in neutral position, fingers and thumb flexed. B = Wrist in neutral position, fingers and thumb extended. C = Wrist and fingers in extension, thumb in neutral position. D = The wrist, fingers and thumb in extension. E = The palm of the hand is turned upwards (supination of the forearm). F = The opposite hand slightly stretches the thumb.

In all cases, first consult your doctor and/or physiotherapist, who will teach you the correct way to perform these carpal tunnel exercises.


Occupational therapy

Occupational therapy covers the means used to relieve patients and help them carry out their daily activities safely. As carpal tunnel syndrome is largely linked to movements performed in the workplace, occupational therapy is based on adapting workstations and integrating ergonomic tools to limit the risk factors for CTS.

In fact, 30% of carpal tunnel syndromes in manual workers can be prevented by reducing physical strain(12).

It is possible to consult an occupational physician to reorganise tasks that are conducive to carpal tunnel syndrome:

  • adjusting the height of the workstation;
  • adjusting the temperature;
  • automation of certain tasks;
  • reducing work rates;
  • job rotation;
  • use of tools such as anti-vibration wrists, ergonomic mice, etc.


Yoga exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome

Practising yoga stretches if you have carpal tunnel syndrome is beneficial for relieving the symptoms. Stretching reduces compression of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel and improves blood circulation.

Participants in one study(13) practised 11 yoga postures designed to strengthen, stretch and balance each upper body joint, as well as relaxation, twice a week for 8 weeks. They showed statistically significant improvements in grip strength and pain reduction.


Alternative medicine and natural treatments for carpal tunnel like exercises, yoga stretches essential oils, massage and acupuncture are indicated as a complement to medical treatments. They are mainly used for mild to moderate stages of CTS, but these different techniques have shown benefits for the health of affected people.


*These solutions are class I medical devices that bear the CE marking under this regulation. Carefully read the instructions before use. Manufacturer: Millet Innovation. 05/2024



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(9)Reyt V. Le syndrome du canal carpien. Actualités Pharmaceutiques. 1 mars 2018;57(574):12 5.

(10)Coppieters MW, Alshami AM. Longitudinal excursion and strain in the median nerve during novel nerve gliding exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome. Journal Orthopaedic Research. juill 2007;25(7):972 80.

(11)Pinar L, Enhos A, Ada S, Güngör N. Can we use nerve gliding exercises in women with carpal tunnel syndrome? Adv Therapy. 1 sept 2005;22(5):467 75.

(12)Haute Autorité de Santé. Syndrome du canal carpien - Optimiser la pertinence du parcours patient. 2013.

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