Carpal Tunnel Research Update (What’s In & What’s Out)


Date: 30.01.2019

A significant amount of new data has been published in the past quarter about the management of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). This week’s blog will equip evidence-based chiropractors with a quick summary of the ten most significant findings plus a bonus tutorial video of how MPI’s Dr. Corey Campbell manipulates the wrist.

CTS Prevalence & Etiology

Section Summary

 CTS affects between 5-10% of the population

 66-75% of CTS sufferers are female

1. “Current literature demonstrates a prevalence of CTS among the general population of 5%. Of those seen by the hand subspecialists, 66% were female, 34% were male with the right hand affected in 42%, left in 26%, and bilateral upper extremities in 32%.”

2. A recent CDC study found that women were more than three times more likely to develop work-related carpal tunnel syndrome compared to men.

CTS Assessment

Section Summary

 Not all “paresthesia in a median nerve distribution” is from CTS

 Phalen’s test only catches about ½ of CTS cases

3. A prospective cohort study of more than 1100 Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) patients concluded:

  • The sensitivity of paresthesias in a median nerve distribution with nocturnal awakening was 77.4%.
  • The sensitivity of the Phalen sign was 52.8%
  • The sensitivity Hoffman-Tinel sign was only 37.7%

Check out this prior blog to review the CTS look-alikes for paresthesia in a median nerve distribution.

CTS Treatment

Section Summary

 Conservative care rivals surgery

 Mobilization can increase canal size

 Nerve flossing and KinesioTape both improve outcomes

 Steroids injections and opioids may not be useful

4. A systematic review of carpal tunnel syndrome research comparing surgical vs. non-surgical (ie, splint, steroid injection, or physical therapy) outcomes found: “No significant differences at 3 or 12 months” in terms of functional status, symptom severity, and nerve conduction outcomes.

5. A new study in the Journal of Clinical Biomechanics demonstrated that “mobilization significantly increased carpal tunnel cross sectional area, anteroposterior diameter, and circularity. The median nerve showed similar behavioral tendencies to the tunnel. Both the carpal tunnel and the median nerve became rounder during the technique.”

Want to learn more about wrist adjusting from THE experts?

Watch Motion Palpation Institute’s Dr. Corey Campbell demonstrate how he mobilizes and manipulates the wrist.

ChiroUp would like to extend a special thanks to Dr. Campbell and MPI for sharing their expertise. The ChiroUp treatment protocol for CTS has been updated to include this tutorial – the first ever from an outside organization! We are proud to collaborate with MPI and hope you will visit the MPI website to find a class near you.

6. An RCT of 103 patients with mild to moderate carpal tunnel syndrome concluded “the use of neurodynamic techniques in conservative treatment for mild to moderate forms of carpal tunnel syndrome has significant therapeutic benefits.” Specifically, neurodynamic techniques produced significant improvements in nerve conduction, pain, symptom severity, and functional status.

Wolny T et al.  Is manual therapy based on neurodynamic techniques effective in the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome? A randomized controlled trial.

For more information, check out this prior blog on nerve flossing.

7. A randomized clinical trial compared the effectiveness of a splint vs. KinesioTape (KT) for the management of carpal tunnel syndrome: “A significant improvement was observed in the KT group compared to the splint group in terms of electrophysiological changes, provocative test responses, symptom severity, and functional status scores.”

8. “The reviewed evidence supports that oral steroids and corticosteroid injections benefit patient with CTS particularly in the short term. Although a higher dose of steroid injections seems to be more effective in the midterm, the benefits of oral pain medication and corticosteroid injections were not maintained in the long term.”

9. An RCT of 54 patients demonstrated that a perineural injection of 5% Dextrose (i.e sugar water) “is more beneficial than that of corticosteroid in patients with mid-to-moderate carpal tunnel syndrome, 4 to 6 months post-injection.” 

10. “Most cases (70%) of carpal tunnel surgery patients were prescribed an opioid and 29% were prescribed an opioid contrary to ACOEM’s guidelines. Cases prescribed an opioid contrary to guidelines had disability durations 1.9 days longer and medical costs $422 higher than cases prescribed an opioid according to guidelines.”

Typically, new research takes over a decade to reach clinical practice! Obviously, we’ve shortened that timeframe for you and your patients. For ChiroUp subscribers, this data has already been incorporated into your CTS protocol. We hope this information is useful for refining YOUR “best practices”.


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