16 Mar New Research; Acupuncture for Carpel Tunnel
So while skimming the Internet I was excited to see Acupuncture in the media once again, and in the TIMES (1) at that! Recent researched based in US using both Sham and ‘Real Acupuncture’ has even had the senior author suggest that Acupuncture could be a “first line approach, and something patients should consider before trying more invasive procedures like surgery.” This is fantastic news to us Acupuncturists who see RSI conditions like carpel tunnel everyday.
So what is carpel tunnel?
Carpel tunnel is described by Web MD as Pressure on your median nerve, which runs the length of the arm, goes through a passage in the wrist called the carpal tunnel, and ends in the hand. The median controls the movement and feeling of your thumb, and also the movement of all your fingers except your pinky. The carpal tunnel is narrowed as a result, usually from swelling (1).
How is it normally treated?
Common treatments for carpel tunnel, consists of activity modifications and devices such as rest, ice, wrist splints, cortisone injections and surgery. Other common options include physiotherapy and chiropractic care.
Acupuncture treatment of carpel tunnel
Acupuncture treatment of carpel tunnel consists of insertion of fine sterile stainless steal needles placed into a series of points, over a series of sessions to decrease the pressure from either inflammation or fluid on the median nerve. Acupuncture also aims to increase blood flow to the area to aid in speed up repair and regeneration.
Exciting news is that a recent study in the US has shown positive signs that Acupuncture outperformed sham treatments. While three groups found relief from pain, but both of the true acupuncture groups showed measurable physiological improvements in pain centres in the brain and nerves, while the Sham Acupuncture did not produce such changes. Improvement in brain measures predicted greater pain relief three months after the tests, a long-term effect that placebo did not provide. The researchers in the study, which was recently published in Brain (4) had some interesting things to say;
“What’s really interesting here is that we’re evaluating acupuncture using objective outcomes,” said the senior author, Vitaly Napadow, a researcher at Harvard. 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,” he continued. “It’s perfect for a first-line approach, and it’s something patients should consider before trying more invasive procedures like surgery.”
Although this is only 1 study it is a start in the right direction, especially considering the evidence of Acupuncture intervention in carpel tunnel, was considered unclear and weak positive in early 2017 on the publication of the Acupuncture evidence project (3) prior to the publication of this study. Hopefully more studies and research will make their way into my hands soon.
For more information about the research about Acupuncture see; https://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/3629-acupuncture-and-carpel-tunnel-syndrome.html
- Maeda Y et al. (2017) Rewiring the primary somatosensory cortex in carpal tunnel syndrome with acupuncture. Brain, Volume 140, Issue 4, 1 April 2017, Pages 914–927
About the author
Lauren Lanzoni is the Acupuncturist, Chinese Herbalist and owner of Balanced Life Health Care. Lauren has a bachelor of Chinese Medicine and specialises in Women’s health, gynaecology and infertility. She has a passion in educating women in the basic lifestyle changes that they can make at home to improve their health, hormonal balance and fertility. To find out more about Lauren click here and to make an appointment to see Lauren at her clinic in Ferntree Gully click here