Steroids as Good as Surgery for Carpel Tunnel Syndrome

There’s positive news from a study conducted among people with carpal tunnel syndrome in Spain. Researchers say a non-surgical treatment is just as good as invasive surgery in relieving painful symptoms.

The authors explain carpal tunnel syndrome — a painful condition of the wrist resulting from compression of the median nerve that runs from the base of the palm up to the forearm — often affects people who perform repetitive hand motions, including computer users, dental hygienists, and even golfers and tennis players. Standard treatment for the condition includes splinting and pain relievers like ibuprofen. When those methods fail to help, many patients undergo surgery to decompress the nerve. However, another option is to receive steroid injections to relieve symptoms.

The current study compared results between people who had been experiencing symptoms of the condition for at least three months. Patients were randomly assigned to receive either surgery or the steroid injections. Results showed no difference in outcomes between the groups over the long term, and in the short term, people who received the injections actually reported better relief of symptoms.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most commonly reported occupational problems, affecting about 2.7 percent of the general population. The pain and numbness associated with the condition are usually worse at night.

SOURCE: Arthritis & Rheumatism, 2005;52:612-619

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