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Paraffin wax treatment for carpal tunnel

Updated April 17, 2017

Carpal tunnel syndrome can involve pain, tingling, weakness, and/or numbness in the wrist and potentially down to the fingers and up the forearm to the elbow. It is caused by compression of the median nerve, which connects your forearm and hand, and the position of your hands and wrists when you work is the most frequent contributing factor. The most common treatment is a combination of rest, a wrist brace, anti-inflammatories, and pain relievers. Some patients find additional relief with contrast baths, one type of which is a paraffin bath.

Contrast Baths Using Water

Because there is a need to reduce inflammation and increase circulation when recovering from carpal tunnel syndrome, many people, including physical therapists, recommend contrast baths. The general protocol is to immerse the affected wrists in hot water for 2 to 3 minutes, then in ice water for 1 minute. Contrast baths are usually performed 2 or 3 times per day. The warm water helps increase circulation to speed healing, and the cold water helps reduce inflammation.

Paraffin Baths

Paraffin baths, originally used in spas for softening hands, can also provide some relief from carpal tunnel syndrome. You can buy inexpensive units that will automatically keep the wax at the proper temperature, or you can use a crock pot and a candy thermometer, making sure the wax never gets hotter than 125° Fahrenheit (51° Celsius) to prevent burns. In this type of contrast bath, the wax takes too long to remove to do an adequate cold bath afterward, but it provides a longer and more uniform heating of the hands and wrists to promote more circulation and faster healing.

Procedure

Make sure there are no open wounds on your hands and wrists and take off all jewellery. You may also want to moisturise your hands before immersing them in the hot wax. Briefly dip your hands and wrists in the melted paraffin 2 to 8 times to develop a layer of wax. Be careful not to touch the sides of the bath, and keep your hands relatively still when dipping or cracks in the wax could cause unpleasant hot spots. To prevent a mess from dripping wax and retain the heat longer, wrap your hand(s) in plastic or towels. Wait at least 10 minutes before peeling off the hardened wax. Most people can safely use the paraffin bath twice a day while their carpal tunnel symptoms persist.

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About the Author

Mark Salzwedel, writing professionally since 1992, is a hypnotherapist, masseur and game designer in New York. He studied seven languages and worked in publishing, childbirth education, film/TV and foreign policy. Since receiving a Bachelor of Arts in English from Macalester College in 1984, Salzwedel has studied biology, astrophysics and world religions.