VIENNA, AUSTRIA. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful disorder involving compression of the median nerve between the bones and ligaments of the wrist. It is most often found among grocery store checkers, carpenters, computer keyboard users, and others whose work requires repetitive, strenuous hand movements. Standard treatments include the use of splints, local injection of corticosteroids, and surgical procedures none of which are completely successful. Now researchers at the University of Vienna report excellent results through the use of ultrasound treatment directly on the wrist. Their study involved 34 patients with mild to moderate carpal tunnel syndrome in both wrists. The patients were randomly assigned to receive either ultrasound treatment or a sham treatment to the wrist of their dominant hand with the other wrist receiving the treatment not used on the dominant wrist. The treatments which lasted 15 minutes involved the use of a five square centimeter transducer operated at a frequency of 1 MHz and an intensity of 1.0 W/cm2, pulsed mode 1:4. The first 10 treatments were given daily five times a week for two weeks while the remaining 10 treatments were given twice a week over a five-week period. At the end of the treatments satisfactory improvement or complete remission of subjective symptoms was noted in 68 per cent of the wrists given ultrasound treatment as compared to 38 per cent of those receiving the sham treatment. At the end of a further six months follow-up period 74 per cent of the ultrasound- treated wrists had improved as compared to 20 per cent of the sham-treated ones. Hand grip and finger pinch strength also improved significantly with active treatment as did the velocity of sensory nerve conduction measured via electroneurography. No treatment-related side effects were reported. The researchers conclude that ultrasound treatment of mild to moderate carpal tunnel syndrome is effective in relieving symptoms in both the short and medium term and recommend further research to confirm and optimize their findings.
Ebenbichler, Gerold R., et al. Ultrasound treatment for treating the carpal tunnel syndrome: randomised "sham" controlled trial. British Medical Journal, Vol. 316, March 7, 1998, pp. 731-35