A randomized clinical trial conducted by a team of Spanish researchers concludes that physical therapy is as effective as surgery for reducing pain and improving function in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). The findings appear in Journal of Pain. The study compared the 1-year effectiveness of manual physical therapies, including desensitization maneuvers of the central nervous system, to surgery in 120 female patients with CTS. The study found that equivalent outcomes for both pain and functionality were achieved with either therapeutic approach, when measured at both 6 and 12 months after completion.
CTS surgery has the highest utilization rate among upper extremity procedures performed. CTS is a pain disorder in the upper extremity caused by compression of the median nerve at the carpal tunnel. It affects an estimated 6% to 11% of the US population, and results in a 6-year cumulative lost income per patient of $45,000 to $89,000, according to the study. In addition to outcome equivalency at 6 and 12 months, the researchers noted that the cohort receiving physical therapy had significantly greater pain relief and functional improvement at 1 and 3 months posttreatment.
Read more about hand pain, here, with a link to a video interview.
Read a news story about the study findings here.
The journal abstract may be read here.