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Best wrist braces for carpal tunnel of 2024, according to experts

Updated
Best wrist braces for carpal tunnel of 2024, according to experts

Those who suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), are all too familiar with the pain, tingling and numbness that plagues their sleep and often has them waking in the morning with a tremendous amount of pain in one or both hands. Dr. Raymond Hwang, orthopedic surgeon and medical director for Hinge Health, tells AOL, "Carpal tunnel syndrome tends to be more painful at night because of the wrist positions people tend to assume while sleeping. When the wrist is bent, the carpal tunnel is compressed, which increases the pressure on the median nerve. This nerve compression leads to numbness, tingling, and pain, which in turn can disrupt sleep." While it's important to have any pain or discomfort you're experiencing evaluated by a medical professional, one treatment option is a wrist brace for carpal tunnel syndrome. "Braces help keep the wrist in a neutral, slightly extended position, which relieves pressure on the median nerve as it travels through the carpal tunnel in the wrist. This can reduce numbness, tingling, and pain," explains, Hwang.

Quick Overview
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Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) occurs when the median nerve – one of the three major nerves of the forearm and hand – becomes compressed at the wrist. Research suggests that keeping your wrist in a neutral position, as a brace would, minimizes the pressure on the median nerve, improving symptoms and function. To help you find the best wrist brace for your needs, AOL spoke with orthopedic experts to learn what to look for in carpal tunnel-specific braces and how they are meant to work. We then took the experts’ feedback and evaluated over 20 wrist braces, ranking each according to style, brand reputation, user and tester reviews, cost, comfort, and efficacy.

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Best overall wrist brace for carpal tunnel

Cost: $48 | Can be used for: Carpal tunnel as well as tendonitis, radial nerve compression, arthritis, repetitive strain injury | Sizes available: Xs-Xl

The RCAI Wrist Brace doesn’t look like your average drugstore wrist support, but that’s a good thing. This is a dorsal splint, meaning it has a rigid posterior component on the back of your wrist while leaving the palmar side relatively open. Certified hand therapist Brenda Cummings, OTD, OTR, CHT, tells AOL, "The dorsal brace might seem awkward at first, but this type of brace works best for carpal tunnel symptoms." Dorsal braces are an excellent choice if you need daytime wrist support, but they’re comfortable enough to wear while sleeping. The dorsal support effectively keeps your wrist in a neutral position while the open palm still allows for daily activities, such as typing. It's important to note this brace is arm-specific, so ensure you are ordering a left or right brace depending on your needs.

While this brace is one of the most expensive on this list, dorsal splints are generally pricier than compression sleeves or wrap-around braces. That said, RCAI’s brace is more affordable than many of its dorsal counterparts. It’s also more accessible. Many dorsal splints are only sold on medical sites, but you can find this one on Amazon. And not to worry, its commercial availability doesn’t minimize its quality. It's constructed with high-quality, lightweight thermoplastic and a soft, moisture-wicking liner.

Pros
  • Allows full dexterity
  • High-quality
  • Durable material
  • Multiple sizes available
Cons
  • Not universal to both wrists
$35 at Amazon

Other top wrist braces for carpal tunnel we recommend for 2024

Cost: $22 | Best for: Carpal tunnel as well as tendonitis, moderate sprains, post-op healing | Sizes available: S-XL

Ossur’s Formfit Wrist Brace offers a high level of support with both dorsal and palmar stays. The palmar stay is malleable enough that it won’t add pressure to your median nerve, but it’s also removable, which makes it even more convenient. This didn't top our list as the overall winner because its immobilization capabilities can bee too much for daytime use. Although the brace leaves your fingers free, it’s fairly restrictive. For example, if you want to keep it on while using a keyboard, you may find typing difficult. Still, Cummings recommends this brace for nighttime use to help alleviate those waking CTS symptoms. And don’t let the bulky exterior fool you – it’s made with lightweight, breathable material, so it won’t be uncomfortable while you sleep.

Pros
  • Breathable
  • Lightweight fabric
  • Removable stay for extra support
  • Three adjustable straps
Cons
  • Somewhat bulky
$18 at Amazon
Explore More Buying Options
$22 at CVS Pharmacy

Cost: $15 | Best for: Carpal Tunnel, arthritis, tendonitis | Sizes available: One size fits most

The ComfyBrace Wrist Support Brace is comfortable to wear thanks to the soft, breathable fabric and plush, beaded cushioning. It's also one of the most comfortable braces to sleep in. This brace is equipped with a removable palmar stay, and though the palmer stay can be tricky for CTS, the extra padding is likely enough to protect your medial nerve. It’s a bilateral brace, too, which means you can wear it on either hand without a problem.

The one downside to this brace is that it only comes in one size, and while there are Velcro straps to offer the ability to adjust the size and fit, the straps are fairly small and don’t wrap all the way around the brace. This would work well for someone with larger, or even average, wrists, but if you have smaller wrists, this one might not be the best fit for you.

Pros
  • Soft and comfortable
  • Suitable for both hands
  • Easy to put on
Cons
  • Small velcro straps
  • Only one size available
$15 at Amazon

Cost: $20 | Best for: Carpal tunnel, arthritis, tendonitis, sprain | Sizes available: S/M, L/XL

The Freetoo Wrist Brace, available in black or rose red, features two dorsal stays, one palmar stay, and maximum support, making it a solid choice for sleeping. The palmar stay isn’t removable, but it is contoured to the shape of your wrist so that it won’t irritate your median nerve. In fact, the whole brace was designed with comfort in mind. It’s made of durable, lightweight thermoplastic, has mesh channels for extra breathability, and features a soft microfiber lining that won’t irritate even the most sensitive skin.

If you’re looking for a brace to support you while you sleep but would love the option to wear it during the day as well, this is it. It allows for full finger dexterity while still providing the right amount of immobilization. Plus, it’s slim-fitting, so it will fit under your long-sleeved clothes easily.

Pros
  • Breathable
  • Mesh fabric
  • Lightweight and comfortable
  • Allows full dexterity while keeping wrist aligned
Cons
  • Stays are not removable
  • Limited sizing
$15 at Amazon

Cost: $19.50 | Best for: Carpal Tunnel, arthritis, tendonitis, repetitive strain injury, sprains | Sizes available: XS, S/M, M/L, L/XL

The Featol Carpal Tunnel Wrist Brace offers major support at a low cost. It runs from your palm to over halfway up your forearm and features three large adjustable straps to ensure you get the perfect fit. The palmar stay is removable, another bonus for carpal tunnel pain, but the best part is the hot or cold use gel pack. It comes with a reusable gel pack which can be used either hot or cold. A large body of research suggests that alternating heat and cold therapy can effectively treat symptoms. There is only one gel pack included with the brace, but you can always buy replacement packs if needed.

Pros
  • Offers hot and cold relief
  • Removable metal stay
  • Provides high support
Cons
  • Only includes on gel pack
  • Somewhat bulky
$19 at Amazon

Cost: $25 | Best for: carpal tunnel, tendonitis, stroke recovery, rheumatoid arthritis, fractures and sprains, post-surgery recovery | Sizes available: XS, S, M, L, XL

A resting hand splint is – you guessed it – best used while at rest. Whether that’s asleep or just lounging around, resting splints promote healing by keeping your wrist immobilized and in a proper position. Unfortunately, that means they restrict hand and finger movements, but that also means you won’t be able to irritate your median nerve further. The resting hand splint from BraceAbility is available in five sizes, from extra-small to extra-large, but it also has three long, wrap-around straps, which gives it even more size adjustability. It’s made using padded, soft materials, so it’s also comfortable.

Pros
  • Soft
  • Comfortable material
  • Adjustable
  • Wraparound staps
Cons
  • Limits movement of hand and fingers
  • May be difficult to put on for some
$25 at Amazon

Factors to consider when choosing a wrist brace for carpal tunnel

  • Comfortable fit: Carpal tunnel braces are designed to keep your wrist in a neutral position. Immobilization is important because wrist flexion puts pressure on the median nerve; bracing prevents that. However, in order for the brace to work, it needs to fit correctly. It should be snug enough to provide adequate support but not too tight to restrict circulation or cause skin irritation.

  • Material: A big part of comfort has to do with quality materials. Neoprene is one of the best material choices since it offers compression, warmth, elasticity, and breathability. Mesh fabric can also add to a brace’s overall breathability. Softer materials, like memory foam, can provide padding for additional comfort. Other braces use copper-infused fabrics, which can help deodorize the brace. While many of these braces can be washed by hand, most are not machine washable.

  • Structure and design: Most braces have a rigid insert on either the dorsal side (i.e., the back of the wrist), the palmar side, or both. Studies show dorsal support is best for carpal tunnel since it prevents flexion without adding more pressure to the median nerve. Palmar support can be beneficial, too; just make sure that the rigid stays don’t press in on the median nerve or that they’re removable. Length is also important, “A wrist brace that is too short may apply more pressure to the median nerve,” says Cummings. Look for a wrist brace that doesn’t stop directly at the wrist and instead extends about halfway up the forearm.

  • Cost: Finally, cost is something to consider. The best wrist brace for you is one that is comfortable and effective, but more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better.

How we tested wrist braces for carpal tunnel

To help you determine the best carpal tunnel braces, our team looked at over 20 different wrist braces and evaluated each based on their efficacy. The truth is, there are a ton of wrist braces on the market, but not all of them work well to alleviate symptoms of carpal tunnel. We considered factors like the overall structure and design of the brace, the amount of stability it provided, and how comfortable it was to wear. Finally, we consulted with two orthopedic experts, including an occupational therapy hand specialist and an orthopedic surgeon.

Other wrist braces we tested

In order to find the best wrist braces for carpal tunnel, we tested a large variety of braces that fit various levels of carpal tunnel as well as lifestyles. If you need to type all day, wearing a brace that immobilizes your fingers is not going to work. For those that do sit at a compute all day, and need more wrist support, we liked the Expoprox wrist rest pads. The wrist wraps offer support and cushioning to reduce tension on your joints and carpal tunnel pain so you can keep working while minimizing flair ups. We also looked at massaging braces and felt they were not practical nor helpful for reducing pain and flair ups.

Wrist brace FAQs:

Do wrist braces help carpal tunnel?

According to board-certified hand surgeon, Dr. John Thomas, MD, wrist braces can be extremely beneficial for mild to moderate carpal tunnel, especially if used overnight. “Most people like to curl up and fully flex their wrists at night,” he says. “This places pressure upon the median nerve in the carpal tunnel and increases symptoms.”

Wrist braces for carpal tunnel work by keeping your wrist in a neutral position to alleviate pressure from the median nerve. To be effective, Cummings says, it should prevent you from being able to bend your wrist more than 15 degrees in either direction.

Why is CTS especially painful at night?

Dr. Jeremy Denning, a neurosurgeon with Dallas Neurosurgical & Spine, says "The reason that people often have more symptoms at night is that, when they're asleep, they often will curl or flex the wrists, which causes the transverse carpal ligament to compress the median nerve. Often they may wake up, shaking their wrists in an effort to relieve some of the inflammation and pressure."

How long should I wear a carpal tunnel brace?

Wrist braces aren’t meant to be a permanent fixture in your life. Instead, Thomas says, they’re best worn for a few weeks. If symptoms don’t improve during that time, it’s a sign that you might need to try a more intensive form of treatment.

What’s the best way to fix carpal tunnel?

Treatment for carpal tunnel will depend on the severity. It's important to talk with your physician about the best course of action to treat your carpal tunnel. Denning says, "As far as treatments, there are conservative options - such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, splints, and local cortical steroid injections targeted to the wrist area which can, over time, help reduce symptoms. However, if symptoms do not respond to these treatments, surgery is a simple outpatient procedure with a very high success rate."

How long does it take to fix carpal tunnel?

In most cases, it will take anywhere from 4-6 weeks of splinting to fix carpal tunnel, says Thomas. However, it may take longer if you’ve aggravated the symptoms with excessive repetitive motions. For severe cases, though, a wrist brace may not be enough.

Meet our experts

Dr. Melissa Boyette, MD, Orthopedic surgeon and hand and wrist specialist

Brenda Cummings, OTD, OTR, CHT, Certified hand therapist

Dr. Jeremy Denning, Neurosurgeon with Dallas Neurosurgical & Spine,

Dr. Raymond Hwang, orthopedic surgeon and medical director for Hinge Health

Dr. Sara P. Simmons MD, Orthopedic hand and wrist specialist

Dr. John Thomas, MD, Orthopedic hand surgeon