If you are wondering whether you should wear a wrist brace to bed or not, the answer is you absolutely should. Many people have mild to moderate symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome that are intermittent. For a minor case like this, wearing a wrist brace and temporarily stopping the activities that caused the repetitive strain injury may be sufficient for relief.
Sleeping in a wrist brace is effective for treating symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome caused by repetitive strain injuries because it holds the joint in place, immobilizing it and reducing any swelling near the media nerve. Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are more prevalent at night because you are more likely to bend your hand while asleep. A wrist splint can stop this from occurring. Furthermore, wearing a splint in bed can prevent further injuries from occurring or exacerbating current ones.
How Should You Wear A Wrist Brace to Bed
Even though wrist braces are designed to provide relief from the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, if you wear it improperly you can worsen the pain. Wrist splints can give the nerves and tendons in your hand and wrist temporary relief and support so your body has time to recover. The issue arises when people wear their braces too loose, too tight, or for too long.
Wearing the Brace Too Tight
You might think that the tighter the wrist brace is the better the support it provides but this is not the case. Carpal tunnel pain occurs when the median nerve, which runs through the carpal tunnel, gets pinched. That is why wrapping the brace too tight is not ideal; you are causing the very pain you are trying to recover from!
Thus, a wrist brace should fit snug but not too tight. Your fingers and hand should not have restricted blood flow or swell up because of the brace. There should be a small space beneath the brace, just large enough to fit the tip of your pinky easily, but no more than that. A wrist brace is not a cast, so do not completely immobilize your wrist with it.
When Should You Wear a Wrist Brace?
You should be wearing your wrist brace to bed every night. But with a wrist brace on, should you still perform the same repetitive activities that caused your carpal tunnel in the first place? Ideally, you should refrain from doing those activities to allow the wrist to heal.
However, if you must do those repetitive tasks as part of your job, then consider wearing a soft brace that still allows for movement. If you are doing tasks that don’t involve your wrists, then you can take the splint off to let them relax and breathe.
Don’t feel pressured to keep the brace on if you are starting to feel uncomfortable. Take it off and adjust it to be less tight, or wear it again once you are feeling ready.
Discomfort When Wearing a Wrist Brace to Bed
It’s no fun wearing a wrist brace, especially when you are trying to fall asleep. Night bracing is something that you will have to get used to until you can sleep the entire night without issue. Some wrist braces completely prevent the fingers from moving, which makes it awkward if you wake up in the middle of the night and try to do something like go to the bathroom.
After an adjustment period, most people don’t have any issues wearing a splint. Wearing a splint for too long may cause the skin to develop a rash, swell up, feel numb, or cause a tingling sensation. It is okay to remove the splint temporarily to air the skin out. Furthermore, you can look for soft braces or wear a support bandage instead of a splint. If the wrist is swollen or warm, apply an ice pack wrapped in a towel for 10 to 15 minutes once every hour.
In case you are wondering which brace is most effective, according to research, none of them are any more effective than the others. The purpose of a wrist brace is simply to hold your wrist in place. The most important thing is to stop or reduce the activity that caused the injury in the first place. So don’t feel bad about trying out various types of wrist braces if the one you are currently wearing makes it hard to sleep at night.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a relatively common condition that affects the hands and wrists of people that perform repetitive motions, usually as part of their job. The primary symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are numbness, tingling, or pain felt in the hand. You may have difficulty moving your first two fingers and thumb as well.
This happens when there is too much pressure being exerted on the median nerve, which can be found in the carpal tunnel in the wrist. Whenever a nerve is compressed, such as the median nerve in this case, then you may feel weakness, numbness, or even pain. Symptoms can even be felt in the arm and forearm.
Common Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Repetitive Strain Injuries
If the carpal tunnel gets constricted, pinching the median nerve, the result is carpal tunnel syndrome. The issue is not with the nerve itself, but with what is aggravating the nerve.
Overusing or overstretching the wrist may worsen the symptoms. Symptoms can increase when repetitive activities are done without any breaks and extreme stress is placed on the joint. For example, people who do a lot of housework, or work in an assembly line, or use machinery that produces strong vibrations like a jackhammer.
Who Are Most Likely to Develop Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
The risk of experiencing the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome can be felt by people in numerous industries, not just those in specific jobs. However, it most commonly affects people who do assembly line work; manufacturing, packing, cleaning, and sewing and so on.
You might think that computer work would be a major contributor to RSI, however based on the data it appears to have less effect than most think. Carpal tunnel syndrome is three times as prevalent in assembly line work compared to data-entry jobs.
Common medical conditions that cause carpal tunnel syndrome are: rheumatoid arthritis, menopause, pregnancy, an underactive thyroid gland, an overactive pituitary gland. A tumor or cyst that develops in the wrist may also compress the nerve. Symptoms are rarely the result of a single cause.
Non-Surgical Treatments for Repetitive Strain Injuries
The best “treatment” for repetitive strain injuries is to stop doing those repetitive activities that led to the injury in the first place. You may not have the luxury of stopping if your job requires you to perform those tasks, so you can’t stop even if you want to. There are some workarounds you can do to improve the longevity of your wrist.
Saving Your Wrist
If it’s your right side that’s causing you discomfort, make an effort to perform more tasks using your opposite side. Simple changes like brushing your teeth, carrying the coffee, and holding the phone with your left side. You can alleviate a noticeable amount of strain just by using the opposite side and preserving your “good side” in the process.
You can temporarily alleviate the pain by taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like naproxen or ibuprofen. If you are currently taking other medicines, then you should consult with your doctor to make sure there are no contraindications. Make sure to take NSAIDs with food. These drugs do not treat carpal tunnel syndrome, but provides short-term relief so that you can get through the day.
Some experts believe performing hand exercises can improve blood circulation and alleviate pressure on the median nerve. There are many to choose from, and in addition, yoga and massages may mobilize the nerve. However, high-quality research regarding the effectiveness of these treatments are scarce, so it is unclear if they are beneficial or not.
Staying Home from Work
If the activities at work are causing you too much pain and not even soft braces are effective in providing support, you may have to stay home from work. Otherwise, your wrist may never fully recover. Be careful not to strain your wrist too much, but still use it to perform some of your daily activities.
Seeing A Doctor
If none of the home treatments are reducing the pain within a week or two, you may need to see an orthopedic doctor. That means the doctor is a specialist in the treatment of joints, bones, and muscles.
If there is significant damage to your median nerve, or if there is an underlying medical condition causing the median nerve to be pinched, your doctor may have to perform surgery. During surgery, the bands of tissue that is compressing the median nerve will have to be cut to reduce pressure. Surgery may be a permanent solution to carpal tunnel syndrome in some cases.