Hawaii Acupuncture Association

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome



One problem we see frequently today is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS).  “Carpal” refers to the wrist, and CTS refers to conditions, which narrow the carpal tunnel, causing compression of the median nerve or ulnar nerve as it passes from forearm to the palm.

The transverse carpal ligament passes through the wrist bones forming a fibrous sheath that contains the carpal tunnel. The median nerve and the finger flexor tendons pass through this tunnel to supply the first four digits of the hand with motor and sensory function. Compression of the carpal tunnel may be due to various problems. Although CTS, in some cases, is due to injury or pathology of the bones of the wrist, most commonly there is an inflammation of the tendon sheath due to repetitive motion (excessive work with computers, power tools, painting, carpentry, etc.), or to swelling and inflammation resulting from an injury to the wrist, or it may be secondary to systemic disease such as rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes, acromegaly, or due to hormonal disruptions such as may occur with pregnancy or menopause.

Common symptoms of CTS are numbness and tingling in the fingers, pain, weakness, and loss of sensation or function. People often complain that they can no longer pick up a heavy skillet with one hand, or that when they drive, their hands tingle and / or hurt.  Pain and tingling (pins and needles) are often worse at night, disturbing one’s sleep and the worst advancement would be ulceration of finger tips.   


In western medicine, the standard treatment of CTS include adjusting the work environment, using wrist braces and taking anti-inflammatory measures.  If these fail, surgery is performed to release the transverse carpal ligament. 

According to Brogmus and Marco (1990), CTS requires the longest recuperation period of all injuries or illness that require days away from work. 


Using acupuncture, G.S. Chen (1990) reported a success rate of 97.2% where 35 of 36 cases had well to excellent outcome after 4-29 treatments over a period of two to eight weeks.

In another study by H.L. Wolfe (1995) a success rate of 87.5% was reported for 14 of 16 CTS cases that were treated with combined of electro acupuncture, laser acupuncture, moxibustion (thermal therapy), and Chinese herbs.

A randomized blind study using red beam laser (Naeser/2000) found significant reduction in pain and median nerve latencies following the series of real treatments, but not the sham series.  All patients were able to return to their previous jobs after the real treatment series.None of these cases developed a need for surgical intervention.

The National Council of Compensation Insurance finds the average claim for  CTS to be $29,000, or $100,000 if lost productivity is taken into account (BLS Report, 1995).  In 19993, the cost to treat CTS without surgery in California was $5,246, and with surgery, $20, 925.

The National Institute of Health, in their report published in November 1997, stated: While it is often thought that there is substantial research evidence to support conventional medical practices, this is frequently not the case. 

This does not mean that these treatments are ineffective.  The data in support of acupuncture are as strong as those for many accepted Western medical therapies.Extensive key punching tasks may cause Carpal Tunnel Syndrome as well as Dry Eyes Syndrome.

One of the advantages of acupuncture is that the incidence of adverse effects is substantially lower than that of many drugs or other accepted medical procedures used for the same conditions including stroke rehabilitation, de Quervain’s tendonitis, osteoarthritis, and headache.


 The best treatment is of course prevention. In cases of early onset, if you can avoid the repetitive activity that is causing the CTS, you can sometimes avoid progression of the problem by performing ACUPRESSURE on yourself. 

 Placing the pad of the thumb across the wrist tendons near the base of the palm, apply moderate pressure, then rotate and wiggle the wrist a few times. Do this two or three times a day.


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