Is Acupuncture for Carpal Tunnel Effective?

Breeze Academy February 24, 2023
Doctor putting a brace on an injured wrist

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a type of nerve damage in the wrist which can cause pain, numbness, tingling and weakness in the area. Acupuncture offers a non-medicinal, non-surgical treatment option for CTS, but how effective is it? In this article, we explore Acupuncture for carpal tunnel, how it works, and the outlook for those that use this treatment.

So, is Acupuncture for carpal tunnel effective? Research shows that acupuncture is an effective treatment against the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome,  including pain, tingling and weakness in the area. Acupuncture may offer long-term benefits up to 3 months post-treatment, however, cannot cure the condition. 

Read on to learn more about how Acupuncture can help to relieve the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Can Acupuncture Help Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Recent research suggests that Acupuncture for carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) may be an effective alternative treatment to medical treatments in mild to moderate cases. This research reports that participants noticed an improvement in symptoms such as pain, numbness and tingling, and weakness after four weeks of treatment. These improvements lasted for around three months after treatment ended, indicating that Acupuncture for carpal tunnel may offer long-term benefits. A later 2021 study appears to agree, reporting that Acupuncture can help with the symptoms of mild to moderate CTS.

Whilst these studies report that Acupuncture can help with the symptoms of CTS, MRI scans from before and after treatment showed that the treatment may also be somewhat effective in improving nerve function in the area. In this case, Acupuncture appears to adjust how the brain responds to pain, and may even change pathways in the brain to reduce pain.

How Acupuncture for Carpal Tunnel Works

It is thought that Acupuncture for carpal tunnel works via stimulation as a result of the needling. This improves blood circulation to the area and delivers oxygen and essential nutrients which may help to reduce inflammation and assist in healing damaged tissues.

Furthermore, Acupuncture works by increasing endorphin and serotonin levels in the blood which helps to relieve pain and aids recovery in motor functions.

Where is the Acupuncture Point for Carpal Tunnel?

The most common Acupuncture points for carpal tunnel are:

  • Pericardium 7
  • Pericardium 6
  • Large Intestine 11
  • Other points around or corresponding to the area

Acupuncture points and meridians is just one of the many things we cover on our Acupuncture courses at Breeze Academy. Learn more online today.

Can Acupuncture Cure Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Whilst some studies claim to have seen an improvement in nerve function in the area after treatment, Acupuncture cannot cure carpal tunnel syndrome. Rather, it is commonly accepted that Acupuncture can help to relieve the symptoms of CTS such as pain relief, tingling and weakness.

Alternative Therapies for CTS

There are a variety of alternative therapies to Acupuncture for carpal tunnel. From simply resting and reducing strain on the wrist to the application of cold packs, the use of braces and medication.

Taking more frequent breaks and resting the wrist is a relatively common and effective treatment for mild cases of CTS, as well as the use of cold packs to help relieve pain and discomfort. It is thought to be most effective in cases of CTS which come and go and have been present for less than 10 months. 

However, for more severe cases of CTS, both surgical and non-surgical methods may prove to be more effective. This may include the use of NSAIDs, corticosteroids, endoscopic surgery, and even open surgery in some cases. This involves making an incision in the wrist and cutting the transverse carpal ligament enlarges the carpal tunnel, with the aim of reducing pressure on the median nerve. 

Carpal Tunnel Acupuncture Outlook

Whilst not a cure, Acupuncture for carpal tunnel can still offer long-term relief from symptoms; one study found that Acupuncture patients were still receiving benefits 3 months after treatment. 

Final Thoughts

Research shows that Acupuncture is relatively successful in treating the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, and offers long-term benefits up to 3 months post-treatment. However, it may not be effective for more severe cases and it must be noted that it cannot cure CTS.

That being said, Acupuncture proves to be an effective alternative therapy that could offer advanced benefits alongside more traditional treatment options such as wrist splinting and ice therapy.

If you’re a medical professional interested in introducing Acupuncture into your practice, take a look at our Acupuncture courses today. Suitable for beginners, our courses are available nationwide and include everything you need to be able to safely and effectively practice Acupuncture.

Learn more about our foundation level Acupuncture course today.


What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a type of nerve damage in the wrist called entrapment. It affects the median nerve by trapping or compressing it in the carpal tunnel. Often, patients with CTS can manage and treat the condition themselves, however, it can take months to get better and cause pain, numbness and tingling sensations. 

What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

CTS is caused by pressure or irritation of the median nerve in the wrist. There is often no one single cause, however, and anything that squeezes or irritates the median nerve in the wrist may lead to CTS. Some common situations that lead to CTS include:

  • Overuse of the wrist
  • Trauma to the wrist
  • Diabetes
  • Fluid retention

What are the Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

The symptoms of CTS typically start slowly and are known to come and go, although patients report symptoms being worse at night. Symptoms include:

  • An ache or pain in the fingers, hand or arm
  • Numb hands
  • Tingling or pins and needles
  • A weak thumb or poor grip

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