Carpal Tunnel Support: FSA Eligibility

Carpal Tunnel Support: eligible with a Flexible Savings Account (FSA)
Carpal tunnel support, such as wrist bandages, are eligible over-the-counter (OTC) items without a prescription with a flexible spending account (FSA), health savings account (HSA) or a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA). Carpal tunnel support is not eligible with a limited care flexible spending account (LCFSA) or a dependent care flexible spending account (DCFSA).

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No prescription required.

Under IRC 213(d)(1), "medical care includes amounts paid for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or for the purpose of affecting any structure or function of the body." This includes medical equipment, supplies and devices.

What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome refers to the recurring tingling, numbness and weakness in the thumb, index and middle fingers that can cause significant discomfort in the wrist and hand. This condition is caused by the pinching of the median nerve, which runs from the hand up through the forearm through a small space in the wrist called the carpal tunnel. This nerve controls the movement and feeling in the thumb and first three fingers, while a separate nerve controls sensations in the pinky and ring fingers.

Carpal tunnel syndrome can be caused by swelling or anything that can compress the nerve pathway between the hand and the rest of the forearm. This can be caused by a variety of factors, but most commonly the condition is known to be caused by repeatedly making the same hand/wrist motions over and over, especially with the hands positioned lower than the wrists, most often caused by typing or other clerical work. Additionally, carpal tunnel syndrome has been known to be caused by pregnancy and conditions like hyperthyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes (American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons).

How is carpal tunnel syndrome treated?

Early detection of carpal tunnel syndrome is usually pivotal in preventing the further debilitation of nerve pathways, as individuals who begin to feel numbness or tenderness in their wrists and hands can possibly lessen symptoms over time with lifestyle changes. Taking frequent breaks at home or work to ease strain on these areas is an important first step, and some individuals have found success through cold therapy with ice packs on trouble areas to reduce swelling and discomfort.

Individuals who continue to experience symptoms have a number of nonsurgical treatment methods with both traditional pain relievers and physical therapy techniques called carpal tunnel supports. The condition's symptoms can be treated with traditional non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen that are known to treat pain and discomfort associated with chronic inflammation. In more advanced cases, a doctor may propose corticosteroid injections such as cortisone into the affected area to relieve pressure on the median nerve. Carpal tunnel supports like wrist splints can stabilize hands and wrists during the day/night to prevent symptoms, while compression gloves are also recommended to reduce discomfort by lessening inflammation.

If lifestyle changes and traditional treatment methods do not alleviate carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms, surgical techniques may be necessary to relieve pressure on the median nerve. Two of the most common forms of surgery include open surgery and endoscopic surgery. Both of these techniques aim to cut the underlying ligaments to ease pressure on the median nerve, but endoscopic surgery utilizes a telescopic device to see inside the carpal tunnel, while open surgery involves a larger incision in the palm of the hand to correct any issues with the underlying nerve (Mayo Clinic).