New research shows that a physical therapy treatment delivered by the hands is helpful for patients with carpal tunnel syndrome

PT for CTS

Here at ARS Hand & Physical Therapy, we understand that when it comes to deciding the best course of action for your injury or painful condition, there are many options available. However, based on our own experience within the clinic and the evidence found in research studies, we firmly believe that physical and occupational therapy is the best possible choice you can make. To help you better understand the advantages of the treatments we provide, our physical and occupational therapists do our best to bring you examples of some of the most important recent studies that highlight the many benefits of our services.

This month, we’d like to discuss a recent study that evaluates a physical therapy treatment called manual therapy for patients with carpal tunnel syndrome.

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a condition that results from pressure being placed on a nerve in the wrist called the median nerve. This nerve compression is usually due to swelling in the wrist, and when it occurs, it causes numbness, weakness, tingling and other problems in the hand. CTS affects up to 3.8% of the population, and its symptoms often make it difficult for working individuals to complete their jobs. This may lead to absence from work and/or a decline in work performance.

Effective treatment is therefore needed to address CTS, and there are a few options available to accomplish this. Occupational/physical therapy is one approach that may be used on CTS patients, and a treatment plan will usually include manual therapy. Manual therapy consists of an occupational/physical therapist using their hands to perform a series of movements and manipulations to the wrist to reduce pain and other symptoms. Unfortunately, there is not much evidence to support manual therapy, and these treatments are often ignored in reviews. For this reason, a powerful study was conducted that compared manual therapy to another type of treatment called electrophysical therapy for CTS.

In the study, 140 patients diagnosed with CTS were randomly assigned to either the manual therapy group or the electrophysical therapy group. Treatments took place in 20 sessions over 10 weeks, and in the manual therapy group, an occupational/physical therapist performed massage and various mobilizations to the median nerve. In the electrophysical therapy group, laser therapy and ultrasound were applied to the wrist of each patient. Both of these treatments apply different forms of energy to the patient with the goal of creating changes in the body that will in turn reduce their symptoms. All patients were evaluated before and after receiving treatment to determine which was more effective.

Manual therapy brings about greater improvements

Results showed that both treatments led to improvements, as patients experienced less pain, greater function and fewer symptoms after completing the interventions. But the patients who received manual therapy reported even greater improvements in all three of these measurements than those who received electrophysical therapy. The manual therapy group also experienced an average reduction in pain of 290%, compared to only 47% in the electrophysical therapy group. Based on these results, it appears that manual therapy is more beneficial for patients with CTS than electrophysical therapy.

This study serves as yet another example of how occupational/physical therapy can bring about positive changes in patients who have a painful condition. So if you’re dealing with any type of pain, we strongly recommend coming in for a visit, where our physical and occupational therapists can identify your problem and formulate a treatment program that’s based on your unique condition and goals. Contact ARS Hand & Physical Therapy at 973-379-7006 to schedule an appointment today, or click here to read the abstract (summary) of the study featured in this blog.