Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common and often disabling condition most often associated with data entry and general computer use, but it can affect anyone who performs repetitive hand motions. CTS occurs in women more often than men and is a relatively common temporary complication of pregnancy (due to fluid retention). It also occurs frequently among people with
CTS is caused by compression of the median nerve. On its way to the hand, the median nerve passes through an opening in the wrist called the carpal tunnel. Constant, repetitive hand motion may aggravate the ligaments and tendons encased in the tunnel, causing them to swell. As the tunnel walls close in, they compress the median nerve. This causes tingling and numbness in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of the ring finger. The discomfort of CTS often wakes people during the night and eventually makes it difficult to grasp small objects.
Most instances of CTS are job-related. Paying attention to proper ergonomics is essential for preventing CTS. This might involve repositioning a computer keyboard or taking breaks more often. Conventional medical treatment for more stubborn CTS cases is variable in its success. Splinting the affected hand, especially at night, may help reduce symptoms.
Proposed Natural Treatments
There are no natural treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome that have any meaningful supporting evidence. Those that have been scientifically evaluated to any extent at all include vitamin B 6
Vitamin B 6
More than 25 years ago, researchers noted that people with CTS seemed to be deficient in vitamin B
A few studies have investigated the effectiveness of vitamin B
for CTS. Most were poorly designed and involved few people. The two (albeit small) randomized,
The bottom line: Because vitamin B 6 has not been proven effective and may be harmful in high doses, we do not recommend it for carpal tunnel syndrome.
For more information, including dosage and safety issues, see the full
Hatha yoga, a system of stretching and balancing exercises, has been tried for carpal tunnel syndrome. In one study, 42 individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome were randomly assigned to receive either yoga instruction or a wrist splint for a period of 8 weeks.
However, this study has a serious flaw: participants in the control group were simply offered the wrist splint and given the choice of using it or not. It would have been preferable for them to have received an option with more “glamour,” such as fake laser acupuncture, or, even better, phony yoga postures. Experience from numerous studies shows that when people believe they are receiving an effective treatment, they report improvement, regardless of the nature of the treatment. (See, for example, the magnet therapy study described below.)
For more information on hatha yoga, see the full
In the one reported double, placebo-controlled study of magnet therapy for carpal tunnel syndrome, 30 people with CTS received treatment with either a real or a fake static magnet.
For more information on magnet therapy, see the full
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 37 people undergoing surgery for CTS, an ointment made from the herb arnica (combined with
People who have a stroke that renders one hand paralyzed may develop CTS due to overuse of the remaining functional hand. One poorly designed study found preliminary evidence that mecobalamin, a form of
One study failed to find low-level laser therapy helpful for CTS.
2. Ellis JM, Kishi T, Azuma J, et al. Vitamin B6 deficiency in patients with a clinical syndrome including the carpal tunnel defect. Biochemical and clinical response to therapy with pyridoxine. Res Commun Chem Pathol Pharmacol. 1976;13:743-757.
3. Franzblau A, Rock CL, Werner RA, et al. The relationship of vitamin B6 status to median nerve function and carpal tunnel syndrome among active industrial workers. J Occup Environ Med . 1996;38:485-491.
10. Ly-Pen D, Andreu JL, de Blas G, et al. Surgical decompression versus local steroid injection in carpal tunnel syndrome: a one-year, prospective, randomized, open, controlled clinical trial. Arthritis Rheum. 2005;52:612-619.
Last reviewed April 2009 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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