Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treatment Options

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Carpal tunnel syndrome is described as the compression of the median nerve which causes numbness and tingling in the thumb, index, and middle fingers of the hand. Sometimes it can also cause shooting pain that radiates up the forearm. Carpal tunnel syndrome can be caused by anything that causes swelling that may squeeze or irritate this nerve. Causing factors include pregnancy, hypothyroidism, trauma, arthritis, and diabetes. Carpal tunnel syndrome can also be caused by overuse. For example, people who type or wait tables for a living sometimes suffer from CTS.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treatment Options

In Western Medicine, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome treatment options often involve pharmaceuticals, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or corticosteroids. However, these drugs are not without side effects and do not treat the underlying cause. Another treatment is surgery, which involves releasing the pressure of the median nerve by releasing the band of tissue around the nerve. This procedure is called “carpal tunnel release.” Unfortunately, surgery is not always a cure and symptoms can return.


In Chinese medicine, there are several factors that can be attributed to one having pain. Many times with carpal tunnel syndrome there is a stagnation of qi, or the life force of energy that flows through our bodies, which is causing the pain. There are 12 channels of energy that run through our bodies and the median nerve lies on one of the twelve channels. If there is a blockage in this channel, there will be pain. How acupuncture works is interesting. Fine needles, the size of a hair, are inserted into specific points along the channels and work to unblock the stagnated areas. When the stagnation is unblocked the pain is relieved. Along with acupuncture, sometimes Chinese herbals, rest, ice or heat, and exercises are suggested. How each patient responds to treatment depends on several things: how serious your carpal tunnel syndrome is, how long you have been dealing with the carpal tunnel syndrome, and how often you use your hands for activity or repetitive work.


In a clinical study which spanned over two years, 36 people who had carpal tunnel syndrome were observed on and off acupuncture treatments. Fourteen of these people had surgery and saw no results. Acupuncture treatments were given either weekly or monthly and by the end of the study, 33 people had their carpal tunnel syndrome disappear or at least cut in half, even those who had surgery that was unsuccessful. The pain only returned for two people two years later. Those two people were then treated again successfully with acupuncture.

By Amanda Carter

Board Certified Acupuncture Physician and Doctor of Oriental Medicine