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Acupuncture for carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is the compression of the median nerve as it travels through the wrist at the carpal tunnel, hence its name. It affects the wrist and hand.

CTS symptoms include discomfort, pain (mild to moderate), chronic pain, wrist pain, numbness, tingling, burning sensation in the thumb, index finger, middle finger and the thumb.

Around 1 in 10 people develop carpal tunnel syndrome at some point and affects women more.

Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome

Typical treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome includes oral steroids, corticosteroid injections and night splinting.

Acupuncture is very effective at relieving pain and regulating energy and blood flow, which can relieve mild to moderate carpal tunnel symptoms in the short term.

From a biomedicine viewpoint, accupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system and cause the release of neurochemical messenger molecules. Electro acupuncture is particularly useful in the treatment of CTS.

Controlled trails have shown the effectiveness of acupuncture treatment. Stimulation of certain acupuncture points may specifically help patients with moderate carpal tunnel syndrome by:

  1. Acting on areas of the brain known to reduce sensitivity to pain
  2. Increasing the release of adenosine, which blocks pain
  3. Regulating the limbic network of the brain, including the hypothalamus and amygdala
  4. Inducing beneficial cortical plasticity (i.e. conditioning the brain to stop processing sensory nerve input from the affected fingers, which leads to improved symptoms)

Evidence based clinical trial of acupuncture versus sham acupuncture shown an increased functional status of brain response in patients with CTS.

Factsheet

Download my carpal tunnel syndrome factsheet.

References

Yang, C, et al. Acupuncture in Patients With Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: A Randomized Controlled Trial. The Clinical Journal of Pain: May 2009 - Volume 25 - Issue 4 - p 327-333. doi: 10.1097/AJP.0b013e318190511c
Sim, H, et al. Acupuncture for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. The Journal of Pain - Volume 12, Issue 3, March 2011, Pages 307-314. 10.1016/j.jpain.2010.08.006
Khosrawi, S, et al. Acupuncture in treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome: A randomized controlled trial study. J Res Med Sci. 2012 Jan; 17(1): 1–7.
Kumnerddee, W, et al. Efficacy of Acupuncture versus Night Splinting for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: A Randomized Clinical Trial. J Med Assoc Thai 2010; 93 (12): 1463-9.
Yang, C, et al. A Randomized Clinical Trial of Acupuncture Versus Oral Steroids for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: A Long-Term Follow-Up. The Journal of Pain - Volume 12, Issue 2, February 2011, Pages 272-279. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2010.09.001.