Did you know acupuncture is effective treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome? In addition to the over three-thousand year history of acupuncture strategies to address multiple pain syndromes such as Carpal Tunnel, a study in the Clinical Journal of Pain shows acupuncture is as effective as prednisone for the symptoms of the syndrome including pain, nighttime waking, numbness, tingling, and weakness. Additionally, acupuncture is an excellent option for those intolerant of steroidal therapy, commonly prescribed to treat the syndrome as well. In both patients’ motor function and frequency of pain awakening them at night, the acupuncture group had better results than those receiving steroidal therapy (1).
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm to the hand, becomes compressed or squeezed at the wrist. The bottom and sides of this tunnel are formed by wrist (carpal) bones, which are between the arm bones (ulna and radius) and the metacarpals (bases of the fingers). The top of the tunnel is covered by a strong band of connective tissue called the transverse carpal ligament, located on the underside of the wrist.
This already narrow tunnel houses both the finger flexor tendons that bend the finger, and the median nerve which provides feeling and movement to the “thumb side” of the hand (the palm, thumb, index finger, middle finger, and thumb side of the ring finger).
Usually symptoms of numbness, weak hand grip, pain, a pins-and-needles sensation from the wrist to the thumb, index, middle, or ring finger appear gradually and worsen over time, leading to near constant pain that often awakens the individual from sleep.
Carpal tunnel syndrome commonly effects those engaged in fine motor work and repetitive motion with the hands such as typing. The condition occurs most often in people 30 to 60 years old, and is more common in women than men. Heredity can be a factor as well since carpal tunnels are smaller in some people, and this trait can run in families. Hormonal changes related to pregnancy can play a role, as can medical conditions including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid gland imbalance.
An acupuncture treatment plan for acute carpal tunnel typically includes bi-weekly acupuncture treatments for the first two or three weeks. Spacing treatments out more than one or two weeks apart does yield results, but often at a slower rate.
In additional to acupuncture therapy and daily stretching, taking a supplement of Bromelain for inflammation (250-750 mg 2x day between meals) and vitamin B6 (25mg) plus B2 (10mg 3-4x day) is helpful. Bromelain is found naturally in pineapple and is an anti-inflammatory enzyme. Omega 3 fatty acids also reduce inflammation and are an important part of a healthy diet, found in some vegetable oils, such as soybean, rapeseed (canola), and flaxseed, and in walnuts sardines,
Dixie Young LAc
The Clinical Journal of Pain. 25(4):327-333, May 2009.doi: 10.1097/AJP.0b013e318190511c
2. According to the Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, 1998.