Treatment Option Comparison for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) results from the compression of the median nerve as it travels through the wrist. Classic symptoms associated with CTS include numbness, tingling, and weakness in the thumb, index, middle, and ring finger. In non-emergency situations, treatment guidelines recommend patients undergo conservative care before considering more invasive procedures, like surgery. This month’s article will look at the differences between standard medical care vs. chiropractic care to treat CTS.

In a case study series, researchers divided 91 patients with confirmed signs and symptoms of CTS into two groups: one receiving standard medical care utilizing ibuprofen and night splints; and one group receiving chiropractic care including manipulation of the upper extremity bony joints and soft tissues, as well as spinal manipulation. Researchers monitored improvement with self-reports, nerve conduction, and vibrometric sensation testing of the affected hand.

Both treatment groups experienced improvements in comfort, finger sensation, and nerve conduction; however, vibrometric sensation testing revealed greater improvements among members of the chiropractic treatment group (3.05 decibels vs. 1.37 decibels).

The authors of the study point out that chiropractic provides an alternative form of non-surgical care, and patients with CTS should be offered the option, especially for those who cannot take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) due to intolerance like stomach irritation or liver-kidney issues. Personal preference is also important in the decision making process for CTS.

Other CTS treatment options often offered by doctors of chiropractic include work modifications, ice therapy, and nutritional options such as ginger, turmeric, boswellia, bromelain, fish oil, and others. There are also CTS-specific stretching exercises that can be done multiple times per day at home and work. The treatment plan for the CTS patient will often include several of these options in order to achieve a satisfying outcome.