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Acupuncture for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Relief: What is it? How does it work?

Carpal tunnel syndrome(CTS) is a condition that affects the median nerve in your wrist. It can cause pain, numbness, or tingling in your fingers and hands. Carpal tunnel syndrome usually develops gradually over time from repetitive hand movements like typing on a keyboard or playing too many video games. Symptoms include numbness, tingling sensations, burning sensations, pins-and-needles feelings, or weakness of the muscles in the hand or forearm near where they attach to the palm of your hand. This blog post will discuss acupuncture for carpal tunnel syndrome and how it works.


Acupuncture for carpal tunnel syndrome
Acupuncture for carpal tunnel syndrome



What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that affects the median nerve in your wrist. The median nerve controls movement and sensation in parts of your hand, so if it becomes compressed or irritated, you may experience symptoms like pain, numbness, tingling sensations, burning sensations, pins-and-needles feelings, or weakness of the muscles in the hand or forearm near where they attach to the palm of your hand.


The most common cause of carpal tunnel syndrome is repetitive movements of the hands and wrists like typing on a keyboard or playing too many video games. Other causes can include pregnancy (due to increased fluid retention), obesity, diabetes mellitus (high blood sugar levels), rheumatoid arthritis.


Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome


Carpal tunnel syndrome usually develops gradually over time. They include numbness, tingling sensations, burning sensations, pins-and-needles feelings or weakness of the muscles in the hand or forearm near where they attach to the palm of your hand.



Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

There are a number of factors that could cause carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel is also more common in people who have diabetes or other conditions affecting the blood vessels. In addition to these types of medical conditions, there are some associated with repetitive motion such as typing at a computer for many hours every day. People who work on assembly lines may develop carpal tunnel syndrome because they perform the same movement over and over again continuously throughout their shift. For example, employees working on an assembly line will often push parts into place using only one hand while their other arm dangles awkwardly close by without any support from a chair or table which can lead to injury if repeated enough times overtime period of several years.


Treatments for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

There are a few different treatments available for carpal tunnel syndrome patients. Some people may need surgery to fix the problem, while others can manage it with splints or corticosteroid injections.



Acupuncture for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Acupuncture is a popular symptomatic treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).


A randomized controlled trial shows all clinical symptoms and the results of the electrodiagnostic tests improved significantly in the acupuncture group, and the improvements continued during the 3 months after the treatment. (Bahrami-Taghanaki 2020)


One systematic review of RCTs focused on clinical trials testing the effectiveness of acupuncture for CTS. A total of 10 RCTs (728 participants) were included. For both symptom relief and function improvement, manual acupuncture is superior to ibuprofen while electroacupuncture plus splinting outperforms splinting alone. Some evidence showed electroacupuncture's potential role in pain reduction. (Wu 2020)


In one research, scientists found that acupuncture at local versus distal sites may improve median nerve function at the wrist by somatotopically distinct neuroplasticity in the primary somatosensory cortex following therapy. (Maeda 2017)


A single-blinded controlled study found that laser acupuncture may be more effective than placebo laser acupuncture in the treatment of mild-to-moderate idiopathic CTS. (Juan 2019)


How does Acupuncture Works for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome belongs to the category of "Bi Syndrome" in traditional Chinese medicine. It is believed that acupuncture can improve the clinical symptoms of CTS patients because of two mechanisms: one is from the acupuncture paroxysmal pain mechanism; on the other hand, acupuncture controls inflammation and pressure of the surrounding tissues(tendons and muscles).


What Acupuncture Points Can Be Used for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Li (Li 2015) and others performed acupuncture treatment on 21 patients with carpal tunnel syndrome. The acupoints chosen were Yangchi SJ4, Yanggu SI5, Yangxi LI5, Hegu LI4, Quchi LI 11, Waiguan SJ5 and Ashi. For numbness, pain and abnormal sensation in the fingers, acupuncture points Shi Xuan(Ex-UE11) and Si Feng(Ex-UE10) were added. For pain in the wrist joint, add Daling PC 7, Yanglao SI6.


Huang used extra points for different conditions, for numbness and pain in the thumb, add LU8 and LU6; for numbness and pain in the index finger, add LI5 and LI4; for numbness and pain in the middle finger, add Er Bai(Ex-UE2).


In one study, Chen Ling suggested that using the opposite side LR 4 and LR 5 with the normal points can improve the results. (Chen 2017)


Book acupuncture in Chelsea, South Kensington if you need treatment.



Selfcare After Acupuncture Treatment

Wear a wrist splint

A wrist splint is something that you put on your hand to keep it straight. It aids in the reduction of nerve pressure. While you sleep, you can wear it.


Stop or reduce activities that may be contributing to carpal tunnel syndrome.

Do not use tools that vibrate, or do anything that makes you bend your wrist.


Hand exercises

Extend your arm in front of you, palm up. With your other hand, gently bend your wrist back until you feel a stretching in your forearm. Hold for about 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat 2 to 4 times to relieve the symptom.






References


Bahrami-Taghanaki H, Azizi H, Hasanabadi H, Jokar MH, Iranmanesh A, Khorsand-Vakilzadeh A, Badiee-Aval S. Acupuncture for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: A Randomized Controlled Trial Studying Changes in Clinical Symptoms and Electrodiagnostic Tests. Altern Ther Health Med. 2020 Mar;26(2):10-16. PMID: 31634868.


Wu IX, Lam VC, Ho RS, Cheung WK, Sit RW, Chou LW, Zhang Y, Leung TH, Chung VC. Acupuncture and related interventions for carpal tunnel syndrome: systematic review. Clin Rehabil. 2020 Jan;34(1):34-44. doi: 10.1177/0269215519877511. Epub 2019 Sep 26. PMID: 31556315.


Maeda Y, Kim H, Kettner N, Kim J, Cina S, Malatesta C, Gerber J, McManus C, Ong-Sutherland R, Mezzacappa P, Libby A, Mawla I, Morse LR, Kaptchuk TJ, Audette J, Napadow V. Rewiring the primary somatosensory cortex in carpal tunnel syndrome with acupuncture. Brain. 2017 Apr 1;140(4):914-927. doi: 10.1093/brain/awx015. PMID: 28334999; PMCID: PMC5837382.


Juan CW, Chang MH, Lin TH, Hwang KL, Fu TC, Shih PH, Chang CM, Yang CP. Laser Acupuncture for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: A Single-Blinded Controlled Study. J Altern Complement Med. 2019 Oct;25(10):1035-1043. doi: 10.1089/acm.2019.0169. Epub 2019 Sep 9. PMID: 31502856.

Li Q. [Acupuncture for 21 cases of carpal tunnel syndrome]. Shanghai Acupuncture. 2015, 34(12): 1229.


Chen L, Xue L, Li S, Kang T, Chen H, Hou C. [Clinical research on mild and moderate carpal tunnel syndrome treated with contralateral needling technique at distal acupoints and acupuncture at local acupoints]. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2017 May 12;37(5):479-482. Chinese. doi: 10.13703/j.0255-2930.2017.05.007. PMID: 29231607.


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