Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Acupuncture and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

 Acupuncture and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is caused by median nerve compression.  The carpal tunnel is a small channel that contains ligaments at the end of the wrist. The median nerve enters the carpal tunnel and is responsible for sensation of the thumb, second, and third fingers on the palm of the hand. Various symptoms can result from compression of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel, including pain, burning, tingling, and numbness in the palm of the hand that sometimes extends into the elbow.

There are several ways in which compression of the median nerve is caused.  Common conditions that can lead to CTS include arthritis, pregnancy, obesity, diabetes, and hypothroidism. There is a broad range of treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome. The treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome is based on the cause and severity of symptoms.  For example: the workplace desk and chair may need to be updated to help keep the wrist in a more neutral position.  Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can be used to help reduce inflammation and decrease pain. However, side effects for the drugs include gastrointestinal discomfort and possible stomach ulcers.  Occasionally, those with more severe symptoms choose to undergo surgery. This involves tearing of the carpal tunnel to relieve pressure on the median nerve.  

Complications of CTS include weakness and wasting of the muscles at the palm extending towards the thumb. This can lead to decreased movement of the fingers.

Acupuncture is a noninvasive way to treat carpal tunnel syndrome.

 A recent study by Maeda, Kettner, et al., found that acupuncture has a positive effect on the brain. Acupucture needles were inserted into specific local points for people with and  without carpal tunnel syndrome in the wrist and brain activity was tracked simultaneously. The study found that the areas of the brain that control sensation had increased activity with acupuncture.For further information about acupuncture and its effects on the brain: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3746237/

A study by Khosrawi, Moghtaderi, et al., found that acupuncture is highly effective in treating mild to severe forms of carpal tunnel syndrome.  The study compared several groups of patients with varying degrees of carpal tunnel pain and treated some with acupuncture and wrist splinting and another group with vitamin B1, B6, wrist splinting, and sham acupucture (acupuncture performed to random points that would not benefit carpal tunnel symptoms).  The group with acupuncture and wrist splints had significantly better improvement of their carpal tunnel symptoms. For further information on acupuncture and its effect on carpal tunnel syndrome:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3523426/