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Manual therapies effective for carpal tunnel, studies find

Those of us that spend hours typing, texting, or surfing the web may be familiar with the aching wrist pain that creeps up after a day of work or session on a smartphone. For 3-6% of adults, that initial wrist ache develops into carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).1

While prevention may be the best way to ward off CTS, for those already suffering from the condition, manual therapies could offer a natural alternative to surgery.

A new study found that manual therapies can improve pain symptoms in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome.2 In the study, 18 women with chronic carpal tunnel were treated with soft tissue mobilization, stretching, and a nerve slider neurodynamic technique. One week after receiving the treatment, the women had clinically significant reductions in pain intensity. The average patient's pain dropped over two points on a eleven point scale.

Another 2010 study confirmed the efficacy of chiropractic care for treating CTS.3 The study included 37 patients who were treated by a chiropractor with trigger point therapy applied to the bicep and elbow. The remaining 18 control patients also received trigger point therapy applied to shoulder and collar bone. 67% of chiropractic patients improved compared to just 50% of the control group. Patients in the control group who later opted for a crossover treatment of chiropractic care had a 75% improvement in symptoms.

Surgery for CTS can be costly and isn't always effective in the long-term. One study found that on average, 30% of patients reported poor to moderate results within two years after surgery.4 Before opting for surgery, patients may benefit from receiving conservative treatment through chiropractic and manual therapies.


  1. LeBlanc KE, et al. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. American Family Physician 2011; 83(8): :952-958.

  2. De-la-llave-Rincon, A. Response of pain intensity to soft tissue mobilization and neurodynamic technique: a series of 18 patients with chronic carpal tunnel syndrome. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics 2012; doi:10.1016/j.jmpt.2012.06.002.

  3. Hains G, Descarreaux M, Lamy AM, Hains F. A randomized controlled (intervention) trial of ischemic compression therapy for chronic carpal tunnel syndrome. Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association. 2010 September; 54(3): 155–163.

  4. Cotton P. Symptoms may return after carpal tunnel surgery. JAMA. 1991;265:1922, 1925. 

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