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Acupuncture: A Viable Treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

By: Vanessa Vogel Batt L.Ac. MSOM

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition affecting the arms and hands. The signs include numbness, tingling, pain, burning, and weakness in these parts of the body. These symptoms often, but not always, result from inflammation due to frequent, repetitive physical movements. However, inflammation can also be a product of an injury, such as a wrist sprain, or certain diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

The carpal tunnel is suitably named because it is literally a tunnel located in the lower arm, and it encases and protects part of the median nerve. The median nerve is involved in sensory functions and enables the palm, plus all fingers (except the pinkie), to experience sensations. When this nerve is compressed, or pinched, due to inflammation, symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome may arise.

The onset of symptoms may start gradually and become worse over time, especially if the same motions are repeated on a near daily basis. Even though some repetitive motions such as typing on the computer or using the phone are not strenuous activities in and of themselves, if performed often enough, the cumulative effect builds up. If left untreated, carpal tunnel syndrome can lead to what is known as nocturnal awakenings, which refers to waking up in the middle of the night from pain and discomfort.

While it is not always possible to stop or even greatly reduce the repetitive movements contributing to the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, an encouraging study reveals the efficacy of using acupuncture and Oriental medicine. The study entitled "Acupuncture in Patients with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: A Randomized, Controlled Trial" appeared in The Clinical Journal of Pain in May 2009.

This study compared two groups of patients with mild to moderate symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. One group received eight sessions of acupuncture treatments over the course of eight weeks. The other group received daily doses of a drug called prednisolone, a steroid used to reduce inflammation and relieve pain.

Evaluations at the end of the second and fourth week revealed that both groups enjoyed a significant reduction in symptoms. However, the acupuncture group received an exceptional benefit that the steroid group did not. At the conclusion of the trial, the patients receiving acupuncture treatments showed a statistically significant drop in their nocturnal awakenings.

The researchers concluded that acupuncture is just as worthy and viable a treatment for those suffering from mild to moderate symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome as taking the drug prednisolone. This is good news for patients who cannot tolerate oral steroids or prefer to handle their condition without the use of pharmaceutical drugs.

If you experience any of the signs of carpal tunnel syndrome and wish to avoid the use of drugs, contact a practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine for an appointment. This treatment will not only provide you with an alternative to pharmaceutical drugs and surgery, but can also address any sleep issues related to your condition.

Find an Acupuncturist near you to learn how acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help you!

Source:  
Yang, C., Hsieh, C., Wang, N., Li, T., Hwang, K., Yu, S., & Chang, M. (2009). Acupuncture in Patients With Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. The Clinical Journal of Pain, 25(4), 327-333. doi:10.1097/ajp.0b013e318190511c

About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.

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