Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common condition that causes a tingling sensation, numbness and sometimes pain in the hand and fingers. These sensations usually develop gradually and start off being worse during the night. They tend to affect the thumb, index finger and middle finger. Other symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include pins and needles, thumb weakness or a dull ache in the hand or arm. In some cases, pain may spread from your hand up to your forearm and elbow.
Carpal tunnel syndrome often affects your dexterity, which is the ability to use your hands effectively, to carry out certain tasks. You may find you often drop objects, or have difficulty typing or fastening buttons.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is the most common entrapment neuropathy. It is caused by compression of the median nerve, which controls sensation and movement in the hands.
The carpal tunnel is a narrow passage in your wrist made up of small bones and a tough band of tissue that acts as a pulley for the tendons that bend the fingers. In most cases, it isn’t known why the median nerve becomes compressed.
Researchers have recently found that acupuncture can help ease the pain of carpal tunnel syndrome. They have also tracked the brain and nervous system changes that may help explain why. The scientists randomised a sample of 80 people, with mild to moderate carpel tunnel syndrome, to one of three groups giving them all 16 sessions of acupuncture over 8 weeks with a follow up appointment after 3 months. The first group received acupuncture at the wrist and ankle. The second received acupuncture at the wrist alone. The third received sham acupuncture, using “fake” needles near the affected wrist, as a placebo. Using functional M.R.I. and nerve conduction tests before and after the procedures, they measured the effect on brain and nerves.
The study showed that while all three groups had less pain initially, the pain relief of the fake acupuncture didn’t last and didn’t show any improvements in the pain centres in the brain and nerves. However both of the true acupuncture groups showed measurable physiological improvements in pain centres in the brain and nerves.
Vitaly Napdow, senior author and a researcher at Harvard said in a recent article in The New York Times said
“What’s really interesting here is that we’re evaluating acupuncture using objective outcomes, sham acupuncture was good at relieving pain temporarily, he said, but true acupuncture had objective physiological — and enduring — effects. Acupuncture is a safe, low-risk, low side-effect intervention,”
The research paper of the possible benefits of acupuncture for carpal tunnel syndrome can be found in Brain, a journal of Neurology .
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