March 2 (UPI) -- Researchers find that among patients with carpal tunnel syndrome, physical therapy and surgery achieve the same results one year after treatment.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a repetitive motion disorder causing pain, numbness and weakness in the wrist and hand. It accounts for nearly half of all work-related injuries.
The typical treatment for severe carpal tunnel is surgery, but more than a third of patients do not return to work within the expected eight weeks after 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," Dr. Cesar Fernández de las Peñas, a physical therapist at the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Alcorocon, Spain, said in a press release.
The study consisted of 100 women with carpal tunnel syndrome divided into two groups, with 50 receiving physical therapy treatment and 50 receiving surgery for their carpal tunnel syndrome. The physical therapy involved manual therapy techniques focusing on the neck and median nerve for 30 minutes, once a week.
Patients in the physical therapy group had better hand function and grip strength after one month than patients in the surgery group. In follow-ups at three, six and 12 months, however, participants in the surgery group saw similar results as the participants in the physical therapy group one year after treatment.
The researchers conclude physical therapy and surgery produce similar outcomes and benefits for patients with carpal tunnel syndrome one year after treatment.
While the recent study is promising, the researchers say that further work is needed to generalize the study's results because all the participants were from a single hospital and there is no data to determine the right amount of physical therapy to effectively treat patients.