Acupuncture/ pressureCarpal Tunnel Syndrome

Acupuncture to treat carpal tunnel syndrome

Researchers from the Kuang Tien General Hospital, in Taiwan believe it’s an option.

And a reader agrees.

First, the details.

  • 77 consecutive carpel tunnel syndrome patients confirmed by nerve conduction studies were enrolled in the study.
    • The nerve conduction study stimulates specific nerves and records their ability to send the impulse to the muscle. The study can show where there is a blockage of the nerve pathway.
  • The patients were randomly divided into 2 treatment groups.
    • The corticosteroid prednisolone 20 mg daily for 2 weeks followed by 2 weeks of prednisolone 10 mg daily.
    • Acupuncture administered in 8 sessions over 4 weeks.
  • A validated standard questionnaire as a subjective measurement was used to rate the 5 major symptoms (pain, numbness, paresthesia [tingling], weakness/clumsiness, and nocturnal awakening) on a scale from 0 (no symptoms) to 10 (very severe).
    • Patients completed standard questionnaires at the start and 2 and 4 weeks later.
    • The total score in each category was termed the global symptom score.

And, the results.

  • Global symptom score showed significant improvement in both groups at weeks 2 and 4, with no statistical significance between groups.
  • Of the 5 main symptoms scores, only nocturnal awakening, showed a significant decrease in acupuncture vs steroids at week 4.
  • Patients with acupuncture had a significant decrease in distal motor latency compared with the steroid group at week 4.
    • Distal motor latency is the time between the stimulus and the onset of the muscle action
  • Acupuncture was well tolerated with minimal adverse effects.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “Short-term acupuncture treatment is as effective as short-term low-dose prednisolone for mild-to-moderate CTS.”

Aside from this study there’s limited evidence supporting a role for acupuncture in the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome. A review in 2002 by researchers at Vrije Universiteit Medical Centre, Amsterdam, in The Netherlands concluded that “laser-acupuncture seem to be ineffective in providing short-term symptom relief.” And there was “conflicting evidence for the efficacy of… oral steroids.”

The University of Maryland website has an overview of treatment options.

5/8/10 11:48 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.