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PT Beats Surgery for Quick Relief of Carpal Tunnel Pain

Physical therapy as effective as surgery in medium, long term; more effective for pain relief in short term

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 16, 2015 (HealthDay News) — For women with carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), physical manual therapies are similarly effective to surgery in the medium and long term, and may be more effective in the short term, according to a study published in the November issue of The Journal of Pain.

César Fernández-de-las Peñas, P.T., Ph.D., from the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, and colleagues compared the effectiveness of surgery versus physical therapy consisting of manual therapies, including desensitization maneuvers, in CTS. The interventions were either three sessions of manual therapy (physical therapy group; 60 patients) or decompression/release of the carpal tunnel (surgical group; 60 patients).

The researchers found that 55 women in the physical therapy group and 56 in the surgery group completed follow-up at 12 months. In adjusted analyses there was an advantage for the physical therapy group at one and three months in mean pain, the worst pain, and function. At six and 12 months, the changes in pain and function were similar between the groups. At all follow-ups the two groups had similar improvements in the symptoms severity subscale of the Boston Carpal Tunnel Questionnaire.

“This study found that surgery and physical manual therapies, including desensitization maneuvers of the central nervous system, were similarly effective at medium-term and long-term follow-ups for improving pain and function, but that physical therapy led to better outcomes in the short term,” the authors write.

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