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June 20, 2018  |  Login
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)
by James F. Balch, M.D. and Mark Stengler, N.D.

In a preliminary trial, people with CTS (some of whom had previously undergone surgery) received either acupuncture or electroacupuncture (acupuncture with electrical stimulation). Researchers found that 83 percent of the participants experienced complete relief that lasted two to eight years after follow-up.


The carpal tunnel is a very small opening just below the base of the wrist, between the arm and the hand. It allows the median nerve to pass from the bones and the muscles of the forearm to the palm, the thumb, and the fingers. Because the opening is so small, it is vulnerable to pressure and swelling. Inflammation from overuse, hormonal changes, or arthritis causes the pain and the numbness of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). CTS may begin as a mild tingling that's worse in the morning or the evening and can progress to a crippling, excruciating pain.

CTS has always afflicted people who consistently use their hands in a repetitive motion: Knitters, musicians, writers, grocery clerks, and assembly-line workers have traditionally suffered from the effects of CTS. But in the last decade, as work has increasingly centered on the personal computer, CTS has reached near-epidemic proportions. At least 10 percent of people who work at computers have CTS, and that number is projected to rise.

The best way to treat CTS is to prevent it from happening. If you work at a computer, use a wrist rest to relieve pressure on the carpal tunnel, and take a break every hour to rotate your hands. If you think you may already have CTS, see your doctor for a test called an electromyograph. If the test proves that you do have CTS, complementary therapies can help relieve your pain. Treatments include removing the source of pain when possible, improving circulation, and reducing swelling. Since a vitamin B6 deficiency has been linked to CTS, complementary treatment also encourages the consumption of that nutrient. Specific treatments from a chiropractor, an acupuncturist, or an osteopath can be very effective in addressing the underlying structural cause of carpal tunnel syndrome. Surgery for this condition should be avoided, if at all possible, because of its high failure rate.

Next: What are the Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

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