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Medications for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Prescription MedicationsOver-the-counter Medications

The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea about each of the medications listed below. Only the most general side effects are included. Ask your doctor if you need to take any special precautions. Use each of these medications as recommended by your doctor, or according to the instructions provided. If you have further questions about usage or side effects, contact your doctor.

Medications for carpal tunnel syndrome are prescribed to reduce swelling in the carpal tunnel. Two different kinds of medication may be effective. Both medications are aimed at reducing inflammation, a primary cause of swelling in this area.

Glucocorticoids

  • Prednisone
  • Prednisolone
  • Triamcinolone
  • Dexamethasone

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

  • Indomethacin
  • Naproxen
  • Celecoxib

Cortisone injection

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)–lower doses

  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen
  • Piroxicam
  • Sulindac

Prescription Medications

Glucocorticoids

These cortisone-like drugs are given in short, sometimes tapering, bursts lasting a week or two. Glucocorticoids can produce a number of negative side effects, particularly when taken for prolonged periods. For this reason, your healthcare provider will prescribe them only for a short time. You will be monitored while taking them. These medications are often quite effective in reducing inflammation.

Common names include:

  • Prednisone
  • Prednisolone
  • Dexamethasone
  • Triamcinolone
Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

There are currently twenty prescription NSAIDs on the market. Each medicine has a slightly different chemistry and side effect profile. NSAIDs can be as effective as cortisone and are safer over the long run. However, they do have side effects.

Common names include:

  • Indomethacin
  • Naproxen
  • Celecoxib

Take special care with NSAIDs if you have had an ulcer or gastritis . They can irritate these conditions. Tell your doctor if you have a stomach condition before you start taking any of these medications.

"Cortisone" Injection

An injection of synthetic glucocorticoids, commonly referred to as "cortisone." It is injected directly into the carpal tunnel. It may be used to treat carpal tunnel syndrome if rest, medications, and lifestyle changes are not working. This is a simple office procedure that is quite safe if done infrequently. It reduces inflammation and the swelling and pressure inside the carpal tunnel.

Injections rarely cause excessive bleeding and even more rarely cause infection. If there is excessive pain or swelling, contact your healthcare provider.

Over-the-Counter Medications

Lower doses of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are sold over the counter and include:

  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen
  • Piroxicam

Take special care with NSAIDs if you have had an ulcer or gastritis, as they can irritate these conditions. Tell your doctor if you have a stomach condition before you start taking any of these medications.

Special Considerations

If you are taking medications, follow these general guidelines:

  • Take the medication as directed. Do not change the amount or the schedule.
  • Ask what side effects could occur. Report them to your doctor.
  • Talk to your doctor before you stop taking any prescription medication.
  • Plan ahead for refills if you need them.
  • Do not share your prescription medication with anyone.
  • Medications can be dangerous when mixed. Talk to your doctor if you are taking more than one medication, including over-the-counter products and supplements.

Revision Information

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113671/Carpal-tunnel-syndrome. Updated July 25, 2016. Accessed October 3, 2016.