Acupuncture For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Relief: A Closer Look

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Acupuncture for carpal tunnel syndrome relief: a closer look

If you’ve been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, you’re not alone – and, there are pain management options that don’t require medication and surgery.

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a condition that causes numbness, tingling, and weakness in the hand and arm. It occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the palm, becomes compressed or squeezed at the wrist. 

This compression can occur as the result of repetitive movements, or from underlying conditions – such as arthritis or diabetes. It’s fairly impactful and can make many daily tasks involving fine motor skills challenging, including typing, writing, or grasping objects.

The incidence of CTS in the general population ranges from about 1% to 5%, and it’s more common in females than males. Although surgery can offer lasting results, many people prefer to seek less drastic treatment first – including holistic options such as acupuncture. 

Acupuncture involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body and can help alleviate CTS symptoms by promoting blood flow, reducing inflammation, and stimulating the body’s natural pain-relieving mechanisms. 

At Solis Acupuncture, our providers serve many people suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. If you’re looking for a more natural, effective way to deal with CTS discomfort, keep reading to learn more about the acupuncture approach. 

Understanding Carpal Tunnel Syndrome 

CTS often develops gradually and worsens over time, but early treatment can help slow its progression, reverse symptoms, and reduce recovery time. Talk to your healthcare provider if you’ve noticed any numbness or pain in your arms, wrists, or hands from performing certain actions.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

Initial remedies like wrist braces or splints are common, but severe cases may require surgery. Your provider may also recommend applying ice and heat, performing gentle wrist exercises, and modifying activities. Some medical experts also recommend corticosteroids for short-term relief from swelling.

For those who prefer more natural treatment methods, acupuncture can offer significant (and often long-lasting) relief from CTS symptoms. Let’s dive deeper into how this approach works. 

How Acupuncture Works for CTS 

In traditional Chinese medicine, carpal tunnel syndrome is often attributed to imbalances in the body’s energy flow, particularly along meridians related to the affected area. 

Acupuncture aims to restore this balance by inserting thin needles into specific points along these meridians, to stimulate the body’s natural healing processes and promote circulation. 

Some research suggests that acupuncture helps alleviate CTS symptoms by reducing inflammation, relieving pain, and improving nerve function. For example, one 2012 study found that professional acupuncture significantly improved symptoms and nerve conduction velocity in patients with mild to moderate CTS compared to sham acupuncture. 

Acupuncturist place a needle on patient's wrist

Additionally, a 2023 systematic review and meta-analysis published in Frontiers in Neuroscience found that when compared with night splints, acupuncture was more effective in relieving CTS pain

Although more research is needed to confirm how effective acupuncture is at treating carpal tunnel symptoms, early findings certainly indicate its potential value as a holistic pain relief method. Clinically, we at Solis have seen many people go from suffering day-to-day pain from carpel tunnel syndrome, to going pain free for days, weeks, even years. 

The Acupuncture Approach: What to Expect

Acupuncture points correspond to where the body’s Qi, or energy, converges, following the pathways of the 12 major meridians. With over 400 precise locations, each point influences specific anatomical functions. 

Research has revealed three primary effects of acupuncture needles:

  1. Enhancing micro-circulation, facilitating the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to injured tissues, expediting their healing process.
  2. Exerting anti-inflammatory actions, which accelerate tissue repair and recovery.
  3. Modulating the body’s neurotransmitters to mitigate pain.

If you look into acupuncture for pain relief, your practitioner will thoroughly assess your unique medical history, symptoms, and lifestyle factors. They will also assess the affected wrist and hand to determine your range of motion, the location of tender spots, and overall sensitivity.

All of this allows your acupuncture provider to develop a highly personalized plan involving specific techniques designed to restore your body’s energy flow and balance. If you’re nervous or have never done acupuncture before, don’t worry – your practitioner will develop a plan you’re fully comfortable with. 

Benefits of Choosing Acupuncture for CTS

Benefits of acupuncture on carpal tunnel syndrome

There are many reasons to consider acupuncture alongside other treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome. Most notably, it’s non-invasive and drug-free, which appeals to many patients for both personal and practical reasons. 

Acupuncture is also a “holistic” approach to pain relief, which means that it treats the body as a whole, rather than solely targeting specific pain points. Therefore, it has the potential to create a range of full-body benefits – including lower stress levels, more balanced hormones, improved sleep, and better digestive health. 

Additionally, acupuncture may provide long-term relief for CTS rather than quick fixes that fade quickly. With regular sessions, many individuals can experience sustained improvement in symptoms and a reduced likelihood of recurrence.

Safety and Side Effects: Choosing a Qualified Acupuncturist

Try acupuncture for fertility

Acupuncture is generally considered safe when performed by trained and licensed practitioners who use sterile needles and adhere to proper hygiene protocols. 

Serious side effects are rare, but minor ones may include temporary soreness, bruising, or bleeding at the needle insertion site. Some people may experience dizziness, fatigue, or mild discomfort during or after treatment. However, most feel very relaxed and energized afterward. 

Most practitioners also take additional precautions if patients have pre-existing medical conditions, are pregnant, or use blood-thinning medications. Be sure to let yours know if any of these apply to you. 

Keep in mind that any reputable acupuncturist will use disposable needles and follow safety regulations established by federal and state agencies. This significantly reduces the risk of any hazardous contamination and ensures acupuncture facilities are held to high standards. 

For example, in California, practitioners must complete a comprehensive educational journey to become a “L.Ac.” (licensed acupuncturist). This includes undergraduate studies followed by a rigorous four-year doctorate program in Traditional Chinese Medicine. 

L.Acs are actually recognized as Primary Care Physicians in California, underscoring their commitment to upholding the highest standards of medical professionalism and education. These are highly trained medical experts, not just wannabe health gurus. 

Specific Acupuncture Points for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

In an acupuncture session specifically targeting CTS symptoms, the practitioner will address certain bodily meridian points. Most commonly, these include:

Pc-6 acupoint neiguan

PC-6 (Neiguan)

This point is located on the palm side of the forearm, between the two tendons (palmaris longus and flexor carpi radialis), approximately two finger widths above the wrist crease. PC-6 is an important meridian spot for treating wrist pain, numbness, and tingling sensations associated with CTS. It also helps to alleviate inflammation and improve circulation in the wrist area.

Ht-7 acupoint shenmen

HT-7 (Shenmen)

The shenmen point is found on the palm side of the wrist, in the depression at the ulnar end of the transverse crease of the wrist. HT-7 is known for its calming and sedating effects on the nervous system, making it beneficial for reducing pain, relieving stress, and improving sleep disturbances often experienced by individuals with CTS.

Li-4 acupoint hegu

LI-4 (Hegu)

Situated on the back of the hand in the webbing between the thumb and index finger, LI-4 is a widely used acupuncture point for treating various pain conditions. This includes wrist pain and stiffness associated with CTS. Targeting this point helps to promote the flow of Qi (energy) and blood in the affected area, relieving pain and restoring normal function.

Lu-9 acupoint taiyuan

LU-9 (Taiyuan)

LU-9 is located on the radial side of the wrist, in the depression between the radial styloid process and the tendon of the abductor pollicis longus muscle. Targeting this spot is beneficial for promoting circulation and relieving pain in the wrist and hand. It also helps to clear heat and reduce inflammation, making it useful for addressing swelling and redness associated with CTS.

Si-3 acupoint houxi

SI-3 (Houxi)

Found on the ulnar side of the hand in the depression proximal to the head of the fifth metacarpal bone, the SI-3 point is effective for relieving wrist pain, numbness, and tingling sensations. Acupuncture in this spot can help regulate the flow of Qi and blood in the affected area. It also helps to relax the muscles and tendons of the hand and wrist, reducing tension and stiffness.

All of these acupuncture points are selected based on their ability to target the underlying imbalances contributing to CTS symptoms, such as stagnation of Qi and blood, inflammation, and nerve compression. When stimulated through acupuncture, these points help to restore balance and harmony to the body, relieving pain and promoting healing in the affected wrist and hand.

Aftercare and Long-Term Management of CTS with Acupuncture

Aftercare and long-term management of cts with acupuncture

After several acupuncture therapy sessions for carpal tunnel syndrome, it’s essential to implement strategies that will prolong the benefits and manage symptoms effectively. This isn’t necessarily a one-and-done approach to pain management. 

Here are some strategies for aftercare and long-term results:

  1. Consistent Follow-Up Sessions: Schedule regular follow-up acupuncture sessions to maintain the progress achieved during therapy. Depending on the severity of your symptoms and your response to treatment, sessions may be spaced out over several weeks or months to provide ongoing support.
  1. Self-Care Practices: You may need to adopt self-care practices to complement your acupuncture treatment. This can include exercises to improve your wrist mobility and strength, ergonomic modifications to reduce strain on your wrists during daily activities, and mindfulness techniques to manage stress and tension.
  1. Healthy Lifestyle Habits: A healthy lifestyle supports overall well-being and symptom management outside of treatment. This includes maintaining a balanced diet, staying hydrated, getting regular exercise, practicing good sleep hygiene, and avoiding activities that exacerbate CTS symptoms.
  1. Stress Reduction Techniques: Stress can significantly exacerbate the symptoms of CTS by increasing muscle tension and nerve sensitivity. Try to incorporate stress reduction techniques into your daily routine such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or tai chi.
  1. Acupuncture Maintenance Sessions: Even after symptoms have improved, periodic acupuncture maintenance sessions can help prevent the recurrence of symptoms and maintain optimal function of the wrist and hand. Your sessions can be tailored to your unique needs and may focus on specific acupuncture points to address any lingering discomfort or prevent flare-ups.

All in all, we recommend taking a holistic approach to long-term management. It’s not just about addressing the physical symptoms of CTS – it’s about monitoring and treating the underlying imbalances contributing to the condition.

FAQs About Acupuncture for CTS 

How Many Acupuncture Sessions Are Typically Needed to Help With CTS?

The number of acupuncture sessions needed for carpal tunnel syndrome tends to vary depending on your condition, the severity of your symptoms, and how you respond to treatment. 

Generally, a typical course of treatment may involve multiple acupuncture sessions spread out over several weeks. We have found 12 treatments to be a pretty magical number when dealing with chronic pain, and getting good, sustained results.

Are Acupuncture Sessions for CTS Covered by Insurance?

Absolutely! All insurance policies are required to cover acupuncture nationwide in the United States.  Your coverage will depend on your specific insurance provider and policy. We at Solis provide complimentary benefit checks for new patients, just give us a call!

Is Acupuncture Safe for Everyone With Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Professional acupuncture is generally considered safe for most individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome when performed by a qualified, experienced practitioner. Still, it’s always a good idea to consult with your current healthcare professional to determine if acupuncture is appropriate for your specific situation and to discuss any potential risks or concerns.

How Will You Know If the Acupuncture Is Helping?

Everyone tends to experience different responses to treatment. Some common indicators that acupuncture may be helping include a reduction in pain, tingling, or numbness in the affected hand and wrist, improved range of motion, and enhanced overall well-being.

We encourage you to talk to your acupuncturist and explain what you’re experiencing. This helps them assess your symptoms and gauge the effectiveness of treatment, making adjustments as needed.

How Do You Know If Your Acupuncturist Is Properly Trained?

To ensure that your acupuncturist is properly trained and qualified, you should certainly verify their credentials and licensure status. Look for acupuncturists who have completed accredited educational programs and are licensed or certified by relevant regulatory authorities in your area.

What Other Therapies Can Be Combined With Acupuncture for CTS?

Acupuncture can be combined with many complementary therapies to generate the best results. Most commonly, patients with CTS will also look into herbal medicines, dietary modifications, and ergonomic adjustments, and physical therapy.

In Summary 

All in all, acupuncture offers a range of potential benefits to those seeking a more holistic, less invasive approach to dealing with CTS-related pain. If you’re tired of circulation problems, inflammation, and pain, it might be time to give it a try. 

Schedule Your First Acupuncture Session 

At Solis, we’re committed to helping patients combat many painful health challenges, including carpal tunnel syndrome. Our practitioners are fully licensed in California and have years of experience addressing pain and getting real results. 

Book your appointment with our Santa Cruz or Scotts Valley team online or call our office at 831-464-1605. We’ll assess your needs upfront, as well as your insurance benefits and payment options. 

Have questions about acupuncture or our trusted providers? Don’t hesitate to reach out to our team directly. We’re happy to help. 

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Lishanna Emmert, DAOM, L.Ac

Lishanna Emmert, DAOM, L.Ac

Dr. Emmert has been treating chronic pain for 15 years. After obtaining her Master’s in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture, she went on to do a Doctoral Program through the Henan University In China, then a second Doctoral program in San Jose, CA. Lishanna has done certification programs in functional nutrition, whole food supplements for pain and sports injury, orthopedic acupuncture, and functional herbal medicine.