Acupuncture for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Acupuncture for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Carpal tunnel syndrome causes symptoms of tingling, numbness, weakness and pain in the wrists, hands and fingers.

It occurs when the carpal tunnel inside the wrist swells and puts pressure on one or more nerves. Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms usually starts and progresses gradually and the pain can come and go.

There is often no single cause of carpal tunnel syndrome. A combination of risk factors contributes to the development of the condition.

What is our clinical experience?

Based on feedback collected from over 1,641 initial appointments for Arm, Elbow & Hand Pain, 73% of our patients reported improved quality of life after their first 3 appointments. See our detailed benchmarking statistics.

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What does the research say?

The following insights are obtained from systematic reviews and analysis of clinical trials investigating the efficacy of Chinese medicine and acupuncture for carpal tunnel syndrome.

Summary of Recent Research

Recent systematic reviews and controlled trials have provided varied insights into the efficacy of Chinese medicine, particularly acupuncture and electroacupuncture, in treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). A 2023 review in Frontiers in Neuroscience highlighted that acupuncture could offer superior pain relief compared to night splints and might enhance treatment outcomes when combined with other therapies, although it did not significantly alter symptom severity or functional status on its own. Additionally, a 2022 study in the Journal of Acupuncture Research noted that electroacupuncture was effective in improving CTS symptoms, showing significant differences from control groups in some metrics, though some results were inconclusive due to the limited quality and quantity of the studies involved.

Further exploration in 2021 and earlier has reinforced the potential benefits of these treatments. Notably, the Journal of Pharmacopuncture (2021) and Neuropediatrics (2020) found acupuncture to be generally safe and effective for mild to moderate CTS, with reported improvements in both symptom and neurophysiological responses. Importantly, these treatments were associated with minimal adverse effects, positioning acupuncture as a viable alternative to more invasive therapies like surgery, especially considering its effectiveness in comparison to standard pharmacological treatments such as ibuprofen, as shown in the 2019 Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies. These findings, however, must be tempered with caution due to the generally low or medium quality of evidence and the high risk of bias in some studies, underlining the need for more rigorous trials to fully establish the therapeutic value of acupuncture for CTS.

Consult with our practitioners for personalised care and advice.

Although well-conducted clinical research can help members of the public to make better-informed decisions about their healthcare, we cannot claim that any particular treatment may be effective for any individual person.

When you consult with our Chinese medicine practitioners, you'll receive personalised advice and treatment based on your symptoms and Chinese medicine diagnosis.

Scientific References

Browse our collection of scientific clinical research on acupuncture for carpal tunnel syndrome.

It includes recent and reputable papers published by peer-reviewed journals within the last 10 years.

Frontiers in Neuroscience

2023, Feb 23

Acupuncture for carpal tunnel syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials
Frontiers in Neuroscience

Acupuncture as an adjunctive treatment may be effective for patients with CTS. Additionally, more rigorous studies with objective outcomes are needed to investigate the effect of acupuncture in contrast with sham acupuncture or other active treatments.

Dong Q, Li X, Yuan P, Chen G, Li J, Deng J, Wu F, Yang Y, Fu H, Jin R Full Article

Journal of Acupuncture Research

2022, May 31

Electroacupuncture for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: A Review of Randomized Controlled Trials
Journal of Acupuncture Research Korean Acupuncture & Moxibustion Medicine Society

Electroacupuncture was reported to have significant treatment results compared with the control group in methods such as total effectiveness, electromyography, and tip pinch strength. However, the quality of the studies (using risk of bias) does not allow reliable conclusions to be made. Many high quality (low risk of bias) randomized controlled trials are needed to examine the efficacy of electroacupuncture treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome.

Park CW, Lim MJ, Lee SW, Yi YH, Song DW, Yu SG, Kim MJ, Oh DY, Choi HJ, Ju AR Full Article

Medical Acupuncture

2022, Feb 01

The Effect of Acupuncture on Hand and Wrist Pain Intensity, Functional Status, and Quality of Life in Adults: A Systematic Review
Medical Acupuncture American Academy of Medical Acupuncture

Acupuncture may be effective and safe for short-term pain reduction and functional improvement in hand-and-wrist conditions. Clinicians should interpret the results with caution due to small sample sizes and clinical heterogeneity. Future research is warranted.

Trinh K, Zhou F, Belski N, Deng J, Wong CY Full Article

Journal of Pharmacopuncture

2021, Dec 31

Effect of Manual Acupuncture for Mild-to-Moderate Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: A Systematic Review
Journal of Pharmacopuncture

Manual acupuncture can be used for carpal tunnel syndrome treatment without serious adverse effects.

Huh JH, Jeong HI, Kim KH Full Article


2020, May 26

Acupuncture and electroacupuncture in the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome: Systematic review

Acupuncture and electroacupuncture are a therapeutic option for mild to moderate carpal tunnel syndrome with a medium level of scientific evidence, tending towards a high level, and with a medium level of recommendation.

Badia M, Santafé MM Full Article

Clinical Rehabilitation

2019, Sep 26

Acupuncture and related interventions for carpal tunnel syndrome: systematic review
Clinical Rehabilitation

The study showcase that acupuncture patients found symptom relief and function improvement. Manual acupuncture was also found to be better than ibuprofen for long term relief.

Wu IXY, Lam VCK, Ho RST, Cheung WKW, Sit RWS, Chou LW, Zhang Y, Leung TH, Chung VCH Full Article

Timisoara Physical Education and Rehabilitation Journal

2019, Sep 01

Systematic review of treatment methods for the carpal tunnel syndrome
Timisoara Physical Education and Rehabilitation Journal

The results of treatment comparisons have proved that non-invasive therapies are superior to surgical treatments, taking into consideration symptom improvement, the maximum period up to noticeable results, relapse situations, patients’ preferences, etc.

Glazer C, Pantea C Full Article

Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy

2016, May 31

Effectiveness of Acupuncture Therapies to Manage Musculoskeletal Disorders of the Extremities: A Systematic Review
Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy

This article showcase the efficacy of acupuncture for carpel tunnel syndrome, piriformis, shoulder pain, plantar fasciitis and patellofemoral pain. The systematic reviews on randomised controlled trials research have showed that patients respond significantly better after treatments compared to the control group.

Cox, J., Varatharajan, S., Côté, P., & Optima Collaboration Full Article


2015, May 8

Effects of Acupuncture on Neuropathic Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis
Neurology American Academy of Neurology

The majority of trials demonstrate a positive effect of acupuncture over control condition in the treatment of neuropathy. Further more rigorously designed studies are needed to better characterize this effect.

Alexandra Dimitrova, Charles Murchison, Barry Oken Full Article

Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies

2015, Oct

Efficacies of Acupuncture and Anti-inflammatory Treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies Medical Association of Pharmacopuncture Institute

The findings indicated that acupuncture significantly improved wrist pain. Patients reported to have a decreased in numbness, better quality sleep and increased in wrist mobility. There is also an overall decreased with intake of painkillers and non-steroidoidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Hadianfard M, Bazrafshan E, Momeninejad H, Jahani N. Full Article

The Journal of Pain

2010, Nov 22

Acupuncture for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials
The Journal of Pain American Pain Society

The systematic review and meta-analysis demonstrate that acupuncture as a symptomatic therapy for carpel tunnel. In the long run, the patients responded better with acupuncture than steroid block therapy.

Lee, H., Shim, H., Shin, B., Jung, A., Lee, M., & Ernst, E. Full Article

Yin Tang
“It is by virtue of the twelve channels that human life exists, that disease arises, that human beings can be treated and illness cured. The twelve channels are where beginners start and masters end.” The Classic of Acupuncture
Circa 1st Century BCE