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, so 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 medicine may be effective; both are aimed at reducing inflammation, a primary cause of swelling in this area.

Prescription Medications

Glucocorticoids (cortisone-like drugs, steroids)

  • Prednisone
  • Prednisolone
  • Triamcinolone (Aristocort, Kenacort)
  • Dexamethasone (Decadron)

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

  • Indomethacin (Indocin)
  • Naproxen (Naprosyn, Anaprox)
  • Celecoxib (Celebrex)
  • Rofecoxib (Vioxx)

Cortisone injection

Over-the-counter Medications

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)–lower doses

  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil)
  • Naproxen (Aleve)
  • Piroxicam (Feldene)
  • Sulindac (Clinoril)

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 and monitor you while taking them. These medications are often quite effective in reducing inflammation.

Common names include:

Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

There are currently twenty prescription NSAIDs on the market, each having a slightly different chemistry and side effect profile. NSAIDs can be as effective as cortisone and are safer over the long run, although they do have side effects. The newer and more expensive selective NSAIDs (celecoxib and rofecoxib) are expected to produce fewer stomach and intestinal problems.

Common names include:

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.

Cortisone Injection

An injection of cortisone directly into the carpal tunnel 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. Cortisone reduces inflammation, thereby reducing the swelling and pressure inside the carpal tunnel.

Injections very 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:

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

Whenever you are taking a prescription medication, take the following precautions:

  • Take them as directed—not more, not less, not at a different time.
  • Do not stop taking them without consulting your doctor.
  • Don’t share them with anyone else.
  • Know what effects and side effects to expect, and report them to your doctor.
  • If you are taking more than one drug, even if it is over-the-counter, be sure to check with a physician or pharmacist about drug interactions.
  • Plan ahead for refills so you don’t run out.