Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when tendons in the wrist become inflamed, often as the result of repetitive stress from typing, playing certain instruments, or even carrying around a baby. The inflammation in the tendons causes tissues to swell, compressing nerves that run through the wrist to the fingers. The result can be irritation, numbness, tingling, pain, or even loss of some motor function in the hands. Untreated carpal tunnel can lead to permanent nerve damage.
Green tea is a type of tea, similar to black tea and oolong tea, which also come from the Camellia sinensis plant. Green tea is made using fresh leaves from the plant. People in India and China have been drinking green tea for more than 5,000 years. Next to water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world. Studies show that green tea has many health benefits: it can be used to control bleeding and heal wounds, to treat flatulence, to regulate blood sugar, to promote healthy digestion, and to improve mental clarity. Because green tea is an anti-inflammatory (like acetaminophin or aspirin), it can help to relieve the pain and swelling of carpal tunnel syndrome. However, green tea cannot cure carpal tunnel -- only alleviating the repetitive stress, by reducing the repetitive movement, or strengthening the muscles that support the hands and wrist, can do that.
In many cases, carpal tunnel syndrome can be treated and reversed. Any treatment that improves circulation, relieves inflammation, and helps to strengthen the muscles of the fingers, hands, wrists and forearms is likely to be of some help. Getting enough rest is important as well.
Using Green Tea to Treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Pour boiling water over green tea leaves, allow to steep for five minutes (or longer if you prefer), and drink. You can sweeten the tea with honey, stevia, or a sweetener of your choice.
- Health food stores carry greet tea extracts that can be swallowed in capsules, if you prefer. Taking green tea as a tea is safer than taking an extract in a capsule, however.
Why It Works
The health benefits of green tea are believed to stem from its polyphenols, chemicals that are strong antioxidants. The main polyphenol in green tea is a chemical called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Scientific studies of green tea and EGCG suggest that green tea has anti-inflammatory properties, which could reduce swelling, redness, and pain in carpal tunnel syndrome.
Green tea contains caffeine, which can cause insomnia, anxiety, irritability, upset stomach, nausea, diarrhea, or frequent urination for some people.
Green tea contains vitamin K, which can make anticoagulant drugs less effective. Check with your doctor before taking large amounts of green tea if you are taking a prescription medication.
Rarely, people who take concentrated green tea in extract form develop liver problems. If you are taking green tea as an extract, it is safer to take it with food. If you have a liver disorder or develop signs of one, such as abdominal pain, dark urine, or jaundice, stop taking the green tea extract and check with your doctor. In addition, green tea should be avoided by people who have heart problems, kidney disease, stomach ulcers, and psychological disorders (especially anxiety). Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not drink green tea.
Anyone trying to recover from carpal tunnel syndrome, or other repetitive stress injuries, should also take a careful look at the circumstances that caused the repetitive stress. If carpal tunnel developed as the result of hours typing on a computer keyboard, for example, it would be worth examining the computer workstation and finding ways to make it more ergonomic, putting less stress on the wrists, hands, and fingers. When repetitive stress causes an injury, it is also typically helpful to build in rest periods, so that the body is not repeating the same movement in the same way for hours at a time without respite. You may also wish to learn some stretching exercises for the wrists, or consider wearing wrist splints for certain kinds of activities, to avoid overworking the hands and wrists.