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Acupuncture Treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is caused when the median nerve, which runs from your arm to your hand
through a small channel or passageway in your wrist called the carpal
tunnel, becomes compressed or pinched. A number of conditions can cause
this pressure, including swelling from rheumatoid arthritis
obesity, hypothyroidism and hormonal changes associated with pregnancy
and menopause. It afflicts millions of people, but far more women than
It may also be caused or aggravated by repetitive hand and wrist
movements. Not surprisingly, it is a leading factor in worker's
Left untreated CTS can get progressively worse, resulting in a chronic
tingling, burning or numb sensation, or intense pain between your hand
and arm, a loss of grip strength and sometimes a loss of feeling in your
hand. For that reason it is important to seek treatment early in order to prevent
serious damage to the median nerve itself.
Benefits of Acupuncture Treatment
In randomized clinical trials, acupuncture
has been shown to be an effective treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome.1
A meta-analysis of two studies comparing acupuncture with steroid block
therapy showed that acupuncture was the more effective treatment
A systematic review of acupuncture for
treatment of CTS concluded that the available data support the use of
acupuncture for CTS but more research is needed.2
performed by a skilled and experienced practitioner, acupuncture can
reduce the pain and swelling associated with CTS and help to restore
normal feeling and range of motion with virtually no harmful side
effects. Acupuncture can also effectively address the source of
inflammation caused by certain autoimmune
diseases which are sometimes associated with CTS.
Perhaps most importantly, acupuncture is widely regarded for its
effectiveness at reducing stress and promoting a deep sense of well
being. This is particularly valuable considering the emotional turmoil
caused by the possibility of a lengthy absence from work or even a
permanent change of career brought about by persistent CTS.
Alternatives to Acupuncture
CTS is sometimes treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
(NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen or naproxen, but they can also cause stomach
bleeding and damage to the liver
, especially when taken for more than a short time.
corticosteroids are also sometimes prescribed, but they also produce
undesirable effects including weight gain, increased pressure in the
eyes, raised blood pressure, fluid retention and other symptoms. Taken
over a long period of time, corticosteroids can also raise your blood
sugar level and increase your risk of infections and osteoporosis
(brittle bones). Moreover, these pharmaceuticals do not address the
underlying cause of inflammation.
Sometimes, in advanced cases,
CTS release surgery performed in order to cut the wrist ligament
pressing on the median nerve. Complications from such surgery can
include a lengthy and often painful recovery time, infection, scarring,
and possible damage to nerves and blood vessels. Surgery does not ensure
that the problem will be resolved or will not recur.1. Khosrawi, S.,
Moghtaderi, A., and Haghighat, S. (2012). Acupuncture in treatment of
carpal tunnel syndrome: A randomized controlled trial study. J Res Med Sci, 17(1), 1-7.
2. Sim, H., Shin, B.C., Lee M.S., et al. (2011). Acupuncture for carpal
tunnel syndrome: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. J Pain, 12(3), 307-14. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2010.08.006
"In my experience, carpal tunnel syndrome typically responds well to
acupuncture treatment. Depending on the individual's occupational or
other risk factors, the condition may resolve completely or it may
require treatment on a regular schedule. In some cases, the condition
seems to have features of carpal tunnel syndrome as well as another hand
condition called De Quervain's syndrome. These cases have also
responded well in my practice."
Dr. Eric Windsor, D.Ac.