Acupuncture for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

By Cathy Wong, ND, CNS

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that causes pain, numbness, and tingling in the fingers or hands, particularly the thumb, index, middle, or ring fingers. Loss of sensation in the fingers and weakness in the hands can also occur.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by repetitive finger and hand use (especially with improper positioning). A nerve called the median nerve becomes compressed as it passes through the carpal tunnel, the narrow passageway of bones and ligaments on the underside of the wrist.

Conditions such as obesity, pregnancy, hypothyroidism, arthritis, and diabetes can also cause carpal tunnel syndrome.

Acupuncture is a viable alternative treatment for carpal tunnel sufferers. For carpal tunnel syndrome, acupuncture points are generally on the wrist, arm, thumb, and hands, as well as other parts of the body such as the upper back, neck, and leg.

The number of acupuncture sessions depends on various factors such as how long you've had the symptoms, symptom intensity, how much you use your arms and hands, and your overall health.

Laser acupuncture, which uses a handheld laser instead of acupuncture needles, is also used for carpal tunnel syndrome. One study looked at 36 people with a median pain duration of 24 months. Fourteen had one to 2 surgical release procedures with no results. After three laser acupuncture sessions a week for 4 to 5 weeks, 33 people had no pain or their pain was reduced by more than 50%. All of the people who had failed surgery had a noticeable improvement. The follow-up after 1-2 years found that pain returned for only 2 people out of 23 people, and they were successfully treated within several weeks.

NCCAOM - National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine