Carpal tunnel syndrome: clinical outcome after low-level laser acupuncture

J Altern Complement Med. 1999 Feb;5(1):5-26.

Carpal tunnel syndrome: clinical outcome after low-level laser acupuncture, microamps transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, and other alternative therapies–an open protocol study.

Branco K, Naeser MA.

Acupuncture Healthcare Services, Westport, Massachusetts, USA.

OBJECTIVE: Outcome for carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) patients (who previously failed standard medical/surgical treatments) treated primarily with a painless, noninvasive technique utilizing red-beam, low-level laser acupuncture and microamps transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) on the affected hand; secondarily, with other alternative therapies. DESIGN: Open treatment protocol, patients diagnosed with CTS by their physicians. SETTING: Treatments performed by licensed acupuncturist in a private practice office. SUBJECTS: Total of 36 hands (from 22 women, 9 men), ages 24-84 years, median pain duration, 24 months. Fourteen hands failed 1-2 surgical release procedures. INTERVENTION/TREATMENT: Primary treatment: red-beam, 670 nm, continuous wave, 5 mW, diode laser pointer (1-7 J per point), and microamps TENS (< 900 microA) on affected hands. Secondary treatment: infrared low-level laser (904 nm, pulsed, 10 W) and/or needle acupuncture on deeper acupuncture points; Chinese herbal medicine formulas and supplements, on case-by-case basis. Three treatments per week, 4-5 weeks. OUTCOME MEASURES: Pre- and posttreatment Melzack pain scores; profession and employment status recorded. RESULTS: Posttreatment, pain significantly reduced (p < .0001), and 33 of 36 hands (91.6%) no pain, or pain reduced by more than 50%. The 14 hands that failed surgical release, successfully treated. Patients remained employed, if not retired. Follow-up after 1-2 years with cases less than age 60, only 2 of 23 hands (8.3%) pain returned, but successfully re-treated within a few weeks. CONCLUSIONS: Possible mechanisms for effectiveness include increased adenosine triphosphate (ATP) on cellular level, decreased inflammation, temporary increase in serotonin. There are potential cost-savings with this treatment (current estimated cost per case, $12,000; this treatment, $1,000). Safe when applied by licensed acupuncturist trained in laser acupuncture; supplemental home treatments may be performed by patient under supervision of acupuncturist. Publication Types: Clinical Trial PMID: 10100028 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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