A new research article published in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy concludes that physical therapy is just as effective as surgery for patients with carpal tunnel syndrome. The study in this article took 100 women with carpal tunnel syndrome and randomly assigned 50 of the women to have surgery while the other 50 women attended physical therapy once a week for 30 minutes and were given stretches to perform at home. After one month the patients in the physical therapy group demonstrated better hand function and better grip strength than the patients in the surgery group. At 3, 6 and 12 month follow ups patients in both groups showed similar improvements in function and grip strength and had similar decreases in pain.
The researchers concluded that at the one year mark both physical therapy and surgery had yielded similar results. However, they caution that this study was only performed on women and they were all treated at a single hospital so more research needs to be done to generalize their findings.