The pain of carpal tunnel syndrome isn’t the same kind of hurt that comes from injured cartilage, tendons or arthritic joints, so you need a painkiller that targets the specific problem of CTS.

Carpal tunnel syndrome and painkillers can go hand in hand (no pun intended).

If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, you may have already tried a number of painkillers to alleviate the discomfort, only to find that nothing really works.

As to what painkiller you should take for carpal tunnel syndrome, I asked Dr. John T. Knight, MD, an L.A.-based hand and wrist orthopedic surgeon and director of the Hand and Wrist Institute at the D.I.S.C. Sports and Spine Center. Dr. Knight specializes in the stitchless endoscopic carpal tunnel release, which takes only 10 minutes.

If your carpal tunnel syndrome necessitates painkillers that aren’t even working, then it’s wise to consider the next step.

Says Dr. Knight: “If severe carpal tunnel syndrome is present, surgery is usually indicated as soon as possible.

Median nerve irritation in carpal tunnel syndrome. CC

“If there is significant pain not relieved with over-the-counter NSAID’s such as Advil or Aleve and possibly a cortisone injection, then a mild narcotic such as Darvocet may be helpful.

“No narcotics should be used more than a week or two, as they are habit forming, and if the pain is severe enough to require this type of medication, then surgery should be expedited.”

In addition to the kind of discomfort that can make you seek out narcotic painkillers, carpal tunnel syndrome typically presents with numbness and tingling in all the fingers except the pinky; and sometimes finger/hand stiffness and weakness.

Conservative treatment for this nerve compression disorder involves wearing a wrist splint while sleeping to prevent wrist flexion, which compresses the median nerve, the nerve at the center of carpal tunnel syndrome.

If you are reaching for narcotic or prescription painkillers, or perhaps any painkillers to subdue carpal tunnel pain, it’s time to seek out a surgical solution.

The more invasive, “open” procedure requires stitches, and results in longer recovery time than Dr. Knight’s stitchless endoscopy.

Until you have surgery, what kind of painkillers should you take for carpal tunnel discomfort, if narcotics can be habit forming over such a short period of time?

Dr. Knight explains that there is “no set time table; each person is different; the more they use, the greater the chance of addiction, and if the problem is correctable with surgery, then best to do soon if narcotics are necessary, but usually not an issue, as pain is not usually very bad.”

Dr. Knight is widely regarded as one of the most prominent hand and wrist specialists in the U.S., specializing in minimally invasive techniques for hand, wrist and upper extremity injuries and disorders.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, health and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of feature articles for a variety of print magazines and websites. She is also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.