One year following physical therapy treatment, patients with carpal tunnel syndrome achieved results similar to those of patients who underwent surgery for the condition, according to a recent study.

In addition, patients receiving physical therapy saw faster improvements at 1 month than those who were treated surgically.

The study, published recently in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, suggests that physical therapy—particularly a combination of manual therapy of the neck and median and stretching exercises—may be preferable to surgery.

“Conservative treatment may be an intervention option for patients with carpal tunnel syndrome as a first line of management prior to or instead of surgery,” says lead author César Fernández de las Peñas, PT, PhD, DMSc, from the Department of Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Rehabilitation, and Physical Medicine at Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Alcorcón, Spain, in a media release from JOSPT Inc, D/B/A Movement Science Media.

The study included 100 women with carpal tunnel syndrome, half of whom were treated with physical therapy and half received surgery.

The patients in the physical therapy group received manual therapy techniques that focused on the neck and median nerve for 30 minutes, once a week, with stretching exercises at home.

After 1 month, the patients in the physical therapy group had better hand function during daily activities and better grip strength than the patients who had surgery. At 3, 6, and 12 months following treatment, patients in the surgery group were no better than those in the physical therapy group.

Both groups showed similar improvements in function and grip strength. Pain also decreased similarly for patients in both groups. In addition, no improvements in cervical range of motion were observed in either group, the release explains.

From these results, the researchers conclude that physical therapy and surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome have basically the same benefits 1 year after treatment.

However, the researchers caution that more research is needed to generalize the findings since the study included only women from the same hospital and there is no available data regarding the most effective dosage of manual therapy applied.

[Source(s0): from JOSPT Inc, D/B/A Movement Science Media; Science Daily]