Wearing gloves may or may not help carpal tunnel syndrome, which is commonly caused by repetitive stress injury to the wrist. They won't cure it, to be sure. Carpal tunnel syndrome is basically a swelling around or compression of the carpal tunnel inside the hand that presses on the median nerve at the wrist. This causes numbness, weakness, tingling, or pain in the hands and wrist. Symptoms include burning, tingling, or itchy numbness in the palm and fingers. Swelling won't necessarily be visible.
People doing assembly work are highly susceptible to carpal tunnel, even more so than data entry workers. The dominant hand is usually the one more likely affected or more severely affected.
Gloves Pros & Cons
Gloves can help relieve symptoms, such as cold fingers, that are caused by poor circulation. Wearing them can help keep your hands and wrists warm by conserving body heat, which improves circulation without adding heat to the area. Warmth and the increased circulation it brings helps the healing process, especially with tendons and ligaments that do not receive a lot of blood flow to begin with.
Swelling or inflammation can be aggravated by heat packs and the like, but because you are just retaining natural warmth with the use of gloves, fingerless or otherwise, you are probably not going to hurt anything more by wearing them. When you are resting and healing, nonrestrictive gloves can help relieve the symptoms of the condition.
Please note that wearing tight gloves can actually restrict circulation to your hands. You'll want to keep the gloves loose and comfortable. Thus, compression gloves worn for arthritis may actually exacerbate carpal tunnel syndrome rather than give relief to the problem.
For relief of carpal tunnel, wrist splints and anti-inflammatory drugs may be worth trying. Splints will keep the tunnel from being compressed, and anti-inflammatories may reduce the pain, though they won't actually cure the problem. Icing the area can help if there is visible swelling in the wrist, but often the swelling is internal and can't be helped by applying ice. In severe cases of carpal tunnel, you may try cortisone shots, or your doctor may recommend surgery, which can take months to recover from and result in a loss of grip strength.
If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you may help relieve your carpal tunnel symptoms by treating arthritis.
Work with proper ergonomics and posture, take breaks from repetitive tasks, and perform wrist and hand stretching exercises. An occupational therapist can give advice on proper form at your workstation and show you how to perform the exercises.
Other Causes of Carpal Tunnel
Besides repetitive injury, carpal tunnel can be caused by physical injury to the wrist, such as a sprain or fracture as well as issues with the pituitary and thyroid gland. It's more common in women than in men, partially because of having smaller hands. Pregnant or menopausal women can experience it if they are retaining fluid, and people with diabetes or other disorders that affect their nerves are at a higher risk as well.