Randomized Controlled Trial Comparing Acupuncture With Placebo Acupuncture for the Treatment of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Elisa Yao, Peter K. Gerritz, Erik Henricson, Ted Abresch, Jorge Kim, Jay Han, Kenten P Wang, Holly Zhao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

28 Scopus citations


Objective: To investigate the efficacy of acupuncture for the treatment of mild to moderate carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). Design: Prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blinded study. Setting: Single-center study. Participants: Forty-one acupuncture-naïve adult subjects with mild to moderate CTS enrolled in the study. Thirty-four subjects completed the study. Methods: Clinical diagnosis of CTS was supported by electrodiagnostic findings. Subjects were randomly assigned to either (1) acupuncture (n = 21) or (2) placebo acupuncture (n = 20) with use of Streitberger placebo acupuncture needles. Both groups received weekly sessions of acupuncture for 6 weeks. Wrist braces were provided to both groups to wear at night, and compliance was monitored. Main Outcome Measurements: The primary outcome measurement was subject-reported change in the Carpal Tunnel Self Assessment Questionnaire (CTSAQ) Symptom and Function scales immediately after and at 2 weeks and 3 months after the final treatment. The secondary outcomes included tip and key pinch strength and combined sensory index. Results: Compared with pretreatment baseline values, subjects in the acupuncture group had 0.58 improvement (. P = .03) on the CTSAQ Symptom scale score at 3 months after the last treatment, whereas 0.81 improvement (. P = .001) was noted in the placebo acupuncture group. No statistically significant difference was found between the groups treated with acupuncture and placebo acupuncture with respect to improvement in CTS symptoms, function, tip/key pinch, or combined sensory index. Conclusions: To our knowledge, this study is the first randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blinded prospective study of traditional acupuncture for CTS. Both the treatment and placebo groups demonstrated improvements from baseline. Acupuncture was not shown to be superior to placebo acupuncture when used in conjunction with bracing for patients with mild to moderate CTS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)367-373
Number of pages7
JournalPM and R
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation

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