Can Acupuncture Help Your Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Surgery isn't the only option if you're dealing with painful carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms. Acupuncture treatments can relieve pain and may even affect the part of the brain that processes pain.
How Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Causes Pain
The median nerve that travels from your wrist to your hands travels through a tunnel composed of small bones, ligaments, and tendons called the carpal tunnel. If the tunnel becomes too narrow, the bones, tendons, or ligaments may press on the nerve. As a result, you may begin to experience pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in your arm and hand. You may also notice that it's harder to grip and hold objects.
You may be more likely to develop the condition if your carpal tunnel is naturally narrower than normal or if your job or hobby requires repetitive hand movements or forces you to keep your wrist bent for long periods of time. Using a computer mouse for hours a day or working vibrating tools can also be factors. Repetitive movements may cause the tendons in the tunnel to become inflamed and swollen.
Other carpal tunnel syndrome risk factors include rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, obesity, hormonal changes due to pregnancy or menopause, kidney failure, lymphedema, thyroid disorders, fluid retention, or certain medications.
Acupuncture Offers a Natural Treatment Method
Acupuncture treatment can decrease swelling in your wrist, reducing pressure on the nerve. Treatment may also improve the ability of the median nerve to transmit electrical impulses, improve your grip strength, and enhance manual dexterity.
Pain relief is one of the most well-known and welcome effects of acupuncture. During treatments, hair-thin acupuncture needles are inserted into your skin, triggering the release of natural chemicals that reduce pain and inflammation, improve blood flow, and help your body repair damaged tissues in your wrist.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is usually treated with pain medication, night splints, corticosteroid injections, and physical therapy. Surgery may be needed if other treatments aren't helpful. Acupuncture treatments can help you reduce your reliance on over-the-counter and prescription medication, allow you to avoid surgery, or eliminate the need for splints.
Research Supports the Use of Acupuncture for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
During a study conducted in Thailand, electro-acupuncture was reported to be just as effective as wearing a night splint. Patients who received acupuncture treatment also reported better pain relief with electroacupuncture versus splinting. Electroacupuncture involves attaching a gentle electrical current to acupuncture needles to enhance the effectiveness of the treatments.
Several other research studies illustrate just how well acupuncture can help you manage carpal tunnel syndromes.
One group of patients received acupuncture and herbal-paraffin treatments while another used medication alone to manage their symptoms during a Chinese study. The members of the acupuncture and herbal paraffin group reported a 90 percent reduction in pain and an 85 percent improvement in wrist function. Patients who only received the medication noted a 65 percent improvement in pain and a 50 percent improvement in wrist function.
In one of the most interesting acupuncture studies, the treatment not only reduced pain but also triggered changes in the pain centers in the brain. The study, partly funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, followed 80 adults who received electroacupuncture and manual acupuncture, or sham acupuncture treatment.
Carpal tunnel syndrome doesn't just affect the median nerve in the wrist but also causes damage in the somatosensory cortex, the part of the brain that recognizes touch and pain.
The researchers discovered that participants who received acupuncture treatments in the affected hand and the opposite lower leg saw improvements in nerve function and also experienced the reversal of some of the damage that had occurred in the somatosensory cortex due to carpal tunnel syndrome. The improvements continued as long as three months after the last acupuncture treatment.
Are you struggling with carpal tunnel syndrome? Acupuncture offers a drug-free way to relieve your pain, tingling, and numbness and improve grip strength. If you would like to find out if acupuncture treatments could improve your symptoms, contact our office to schedule your first appointment.