Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful condition caused by swelling and inflammation in the wrist and tendons of the fingers that surround the median nerve.
When the swollen tendons squeeze or compress the median nerve, it causes pain, tingling, and numbness. Carpal tunnel syndrome is sometimes referred to as a repetitive motion syndrome.
Foods and supplements that alleviate inflammation may benefit this condition. In some instances, the right type of diet may alleviate symptoms enough so that other medical treatments are not needed. In other instances, it may be a beneficial addition to medical treatment.
Certain foods may also exacerbate this condition, by furthering inflammation in the body.
Read on to learn about the foods and supplements that help or hurt carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal tunnel syndrome has a number of known causes. These include:
- genetic predisposition
- history of repetitive wrist movements, such as typing or machine work
- autoimmune disorders
Inflammation also plays a central role in the pain-related symptoms caused by carpal tunnel syndrome.
Inflammation is a natural process in the body that helps protect you from injury and infection. However, chronic inflammation has been
A diet high in processed foods may increase levels of pro-inflammatory proteins, called cytokines. Tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFa) is a cytokine that has been
Foods that promote inflammation may make carpal tunnel syndrome worse. These include:
Refined starches and sugars
Refined starches are also referred to as simple carbohydrates, or simply, “bad carbs.” They include grains that have been stripped of fiber, nutrients, and bran. They also include desserts and sodas.
Refined starches and sugars include:
- sugary breakfast cereals
- white bread
- white flour
- regular pasta
- white rice
- ice cream
Foods high in saturated fat and trans fat
Many refined carbohydrates are also high in saturated or trans fat. These include desserts such as pie and cake.
Other foods high in saturated and trans fat include:
- beef, pork, and processed luncheon meats, including bologna
- microwave popcorn
- cake icing
Fried foods are often high in trans fat and salt. They include many fast foods, such as French fries, fried chicken, and tacos.
Since salt can cause water retention, it may worsen swelling and pressure on the median nerve.
Avoid foods that are high in salt, including processed, packaged foods. Also avoid adding table salt to meals.
A too-heavy intake of alcoholic beverages can raise inflammation levels in the body.
Foods that reduce inflammation have been
Foods containing omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and are neuroprotective. A small 2020 study found that omega-3 fatty acids reduced numbness and pain caused by carpal tunnel syndrome. Foods containing omega-3 fatty acids include:
- fish oil
- coldwater fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel, and sardines
Foods high in antioxidants can reduce inflammation and may help alleviate the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. They include:
- berries, including blueberries, strawberries, and goji berries
- spinach and other dark leafy greens
- citrus fruits like oranges and lemons
- red bell peppers and other colorful vegetables
- herbs and spices like parsley and turmeric
- walnuts, pistachios, and other nuts
- fatty fish like salmon
Foods high in vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 supplementation is a controversial treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome. It’s sometimes recommended by healthcare providers because it’s optimal for overall health, plus it may help reduce carpal tunnel symptoms.
It’s not completely clear how B6 works for this condition. One
Foods high in B6 include:
- poultry (chicken and turkey)
- wheat germ
Foods high in vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 supplementation may be beneficial for reducing the effects of nerve damage and
In addition to scientific data, users of turmeric say it’s beneficial for reducing the inflammation associated with carpal tunnel syndrome and with other conditions, including arthritis.
If you decide to try turmeric, make sure to use it with black pepper. The pepper increases the bioavailability of curcumin, increasing its effectiveness.
You can also drink turmeric tea.
If your diet is lacking in the vitamins and nutrients found in the foods listed above, you may benefit from taking them as supplements. They include:
- vitamins B12 and B6
- fish oil capsules, which are high in omega-3 fatty acid and antioxidants
- turmeric or curcumin
In addition, there are supplements that may be beneficial to take, as the nutrients are hard to get through diet alone. They include:
- Alpha-lipoic acid. Alpha-lipoic acid has neuroprotective properties and has been
shownto reduce carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms. It’s found in some foods, such as spinach and organ meat, but in very small amounts.
- Capsaicin. This compound is found in hot red peppers. It has been
shownto have pain-relieving properties.
Home remedies for carpal tunnel syndrome may be useful for pain relief and for alleviating swelling. They include:
- oral over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication
- topical steroidal creams
- topical capsaicin creams
- wearing a wrist brace or splint
- reducing repetitive motion activities that require flexing of the wrist. These include typing, using a computer mouse, handwriting, and working a cash register
- not falling asleep with your wrists held in a bent position
- physical therapy
Carpal tunnel syndrome can be painful and debilitating. Since it can occur in both wrists, it may significantly reduce your ability to participate in daily activities.
If at-home treatments and dietary changes don’t help, talk with a healthcare provider.
In some instances, acupuncture may be beneficial for alleviating this condition and reducing pain.
You may also wish to consider medical treatments, such as cortisone injections.
Surgical solutions for carpal tunnel syndrome may be highly beneficial.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful condition caused by the compression of nerves in the wrist and palm.
Eating certain foods and taking dietary supplements may help alleviate the swelling and inflammation caused by this condition. There are also some at-home treatments that can help.
If diet and at-home methods for treating carpal tunnel syndrome aren’t enough, speak with a healthcare provider.