UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Orthopedics

Title: Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS)

Keywords: carpal tunnel syndrome, neuropathy, (PubMed Search)

Posted: 7/11/2020 by Brian Corwell, MD (Updated: 8/15/2022)
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Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS)

The management of CTS depends of the severity of the disease

If symptoms or on the mild to moderate range, a trial of conservative treatment is encouraged.

Possible therapeutic approaches can include splinting in wrist neutral position. Some even extend to keep the CMP joints extended. Extreme flexion and extension can increase pressure within the carpal tunnel. Usually for nighttime use only. May be used during day based on work and activity demands.

Has been shown to improve electrophysiologic findings after 12 weeks of use in moderate CTS.

Formal hand physical therapy (by an experienced therapist) may also be of some benefit including carpal bone mobilization, ultrasound and nerve glide exercises.   

There is small evidence for the benefit of prednisone (20mg/d) as it has been shown to be more effective than placebo with improvements lasting an average of 8 weeks.

There is no benefit to NSAIDs or diuretics.

There is poor evidence for therapeutic ultrasound and acupuncture.

While more invasive than the above modalities, steroid injections may decrease inflammation and pressure in the carpal tunnel.  Patients randomized to steroid injection may do better than those randomized to nighttime splinting.

Early referral in those with positive electrodiagnostic findings is encouraged as they do best with earlier surgical release and have better recovery.

If however the patient has severe, progressive or persistent symptoms or there is known evidence of nerve injury on diagnostic testing, referral for surgical decompression is warranted.