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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, osteoarthritis, diabetes, obesity, hypothyroidism and hormonal changes associated with pregnancy and menopause. It afflicts millions of people, but far more women than men.

It may also be caused or aggravated by repetitive hand and wrist movements. Not surprisingly, it is a leading factor in worker's compensation cases.

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 (n=144,p=.005).2 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

When 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 and kidneys, especially when taken for more than a short time.

Oral 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.

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About Maryland Holistics

Maryland Holistics LLC is the private practice of Dr. Eric Windsor, D.Ac., L.Ac. Our serene, professional office is located in Ellicott City, MD. Maryland Holistics has provided care to thousands of satisfied customers since opening in 2009. Dr. Windsor is a preferred provider in the CareFirst, Blue Cross Blue Shield, GEHA, and United Healthcare networks.

3525 Ellicott Mills Dr., Ste E
Ellicott City, MD 21043
Phone: 301-588-5858
Fax: 443-308-5690