Carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome comprises potentially disabling sensory and/or motor symptoms in the hand. Around 1 in 10 people develop carpal tunnel syndrome at some point, and it is particularly common in women. The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are caused by compression of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel at the wrist and include numbness, tingling, burning sensations, and a dull ache in the hand and fingers. These symptoms are usually restricted to the thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers, but may affect the little finger.

In general, acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system and cause the release of neurochemical messenger molecules. The resulting biochemical changes influence the body’s homeostatic mechanisms, thus promoting physical and emotional well-being.

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Research has shown that acupuncture treatment may specifically help in the management of carpal tunnel syndrome by:

  • acting on areas of the brain known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress, as well as promoting relaxation and deactivating the ‘analytical’ brain, which is responsible for anxiety and worry.

  • increasing the release of adenosine, which has antinociceptive properties.

  • regulating the limbic network of the brain, including the hypothalamus and amygdala 

  • inducing beneficial cortical plasticity (i.e. conditioning the brain to stop processing sensory nerve input from the affected fingers maladaptively, which leads to improved symptoms).