Acupuncture for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome In Pregnancy
Characterised by pain and numbness which affects the thumb, index finger, middle finger and ring finger, carpal tunnel syndrome frequently occurs in the later stages of pregnancy owing to oedema in the hands. The numbness, tingling or burning sensations occur because the median nerve is being restricted as it passes through the carpal tunnel in the wrist. The symptoms will be worse for use, and may even spread to the forearm and palm of the affected arm. In chronic cases, the muscles around the thumb may waste.
This syndrome can, if severe, interfere with daily activities such as being able to hold a cup or brush the hair. There may be loss of sleep due to being woken in the night by pain in the hands. In some cases “double entrapment” occurs, in which nerve roots at the cervical spine also need to be released by inserting needles into the paraspinal muscles.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in Pregnancy and TCM
Pain in TCM arises when our Qi is not free flowing; for some reason it is stuck or stagnant. Wherever it is in our body, TCM treatment usually includes acupuncture to encourage the Qi to move more freely. Needles may be inserted near the pain itself, but quite often acupuncture points in the hands, feet, arms or legs may be used. These are points which are connected to the head by the meridian system and which are known to be able to regulate the Qi of the body.
The TCM clinician will see the pain as part of a bigger picture which is the overall health of the patient. This will give him or her an understanding of why the pain is happening, and treatment will thus be geared not only to symptomatic relief of the pain, but to improving the general health of the patient so that the pain will, in time, be relieved.
Is Acupuncture Helpful in the treatment of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
A review of the research literature carried out by 1Leake and Broderic in 1999 indicated that acupuncture was effective for a wide range of conditions, including Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. There is limited research into the specific condition of carpal tunnel syndrome in pregnancy, but case histories indicate that treatment is successful although the number of treatments required to resolve the condition will depend upon the length of time it has been experienced.
2Wolfe (undated) details three cases using various means to treat the condition which led to successful outcomes for the patients concerned.
In 1997, the US National Institute of Health Consensus panel, having reviewed the available clinical studies, acknowledged that acupuncture can help in the treatment of this condition
1Leake, R., Broderic, J.E. (1999) Treatment Efficacy of Acupuncture: A review of the Research Literature, Integrative Medicine, Vol1, Iss. 3 pp107-115
2Wolfe, H.L (undated) One Approach to Acumoxa Therapy for Pain due to Tendonitis of the Hand, Wrist, and Forearm. Available from:http://acupuncture.com/conditions/tendonitis.htm