The symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome are uncomfortable at best and at their worst can severely impact daily life. If you have been diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, it is likely that you want relief quickly, and there are many treatment options available to you. It is important to remember that some forms of treatment are more effective than others, and their success varies from person to person. Here we consider the pros and cons of a Carpal Tunnel wrist splint – sometimes known as a wrist brace, which is commonly used as conservative management for mild Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

How does a wrist splint work?

The splint is worn over the hand to provide support and stabilise the wrist. It puts the wrist in a position which places the least amount of pressure on the median nerve and so reduces pain and other symptoms. It can take three to four weeks to see any improvement and while not a cure it can give some relief from the symptoms for short periods of time.

Splints are available without prescription from pharmacies and online and are relatively inexpensive. While they all work in the same way, there are many different styles and sizes, and for the wrist splint to be most effective, you must find the one that is the best fit for you. For the greatest benefit, a custom-fit wrist splint is likely to be the best solution. But, it can be more expensive than an ‘off-the-shelf’ option.

What is a nighttime wrist splint?

There are two types of wrist splints available, a resting splint and a working splint. Many of us sleep with our wrists bent which puts pressure on the median nerve and is the reason most people experience symptoms worse in the morning. The resting splint is designed to be worn while you sleep to reduce pressure on the nerve and so help relieve pain, tingling and general discomfort throughout the night and first thing in the morning.  Although some people find it can take a short while to get used to wearing the splint, sleep and symptoms generally improve.

Can a wrist splint be worn during the day?

The working wrist splint is designed to be worn during the day, particularly during activities which you know make your symptoms worse. It works in a similar way to the resting splint whereby it prevents flex and therefore minimises pressure on the nerve. The splint usually leaves the fingers and thumb free to allow you to carry out work activities and everyday tasks such as driving. However, be aware that some splints can affect grip strength and care must be taken when carrying out activities which rely on grip.

Can a wrist splint be used long-term?

For the most significant improvement, a wrist splint needs to be worn continuously. Unfortunately, long-term wear can cause the joints to become stiff and muscles to weaken so it is important that the wrist is used as usual when you are not wearing the splint to keep flexibility and strength.

Is a wrist splint a good option?

Overall a wrist splint is a drug-free, non-surgical option to manage mild symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome making it a good self-help option, particularly for those who are pregnant. However, a splint does have limited effectiveness and is not recommended for long-term use or where symptoms are more severe. Click here to find out more about other treatment options.   

Pros Cons
Drug-free Useful for mild symptoms only
Non-surgical Not suitable for long-term use
Safe to use during pregnancy It is not a cure
Allows for most day-to-day activities Unsafe to use during activities which require grip
Helps alleviate symptoms during the night and on waking Can take three to four weeks to see improvement
Inexpensive and available without a prescription Getting the right fit is crucial and custom-made can be expensive
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