Mechanical wrist traction as a non invasive treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome: A randomized controlled trial

M. Meems, V.R.M. Spek, W.J. Kop, B.J. Meems, L.H. Visser, V.J.M. Pop

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Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common, compressive nerve-entrapment disorder with symptoms of numbness, paresthesia, and pain. Carpal tunnel release surgery is the only known long-term effective treatment. However, surgery is invasive and up to 30% of patients report recurrence or persistence of symptoms or suffer from post-surgical complications. A promising non-surgical treatment for CTS is mechanical wrist traction. The purpose of this study was to evaluate clinical outcomes following mechanical traction in patients with CTS compared to care as usual.
Adult patients (N = 181, mean age 58.1 (13.0) years, 67% women) with electrodiagnostically confirmed CTS were recruited from an outpatient neurology clinic in the Netherlands between October 2013 and April 2015. After baseline assessments, patients were randomized to either the intervention group (12 treatments with mechanical traction, twice a week for a period of 6 weeks) or “care as usual”. The main clinical outcome measure was surgery during 6 months’ follow-up. In addition, symptom severity was measured using the Boston Carpal Tunnel Questionnaire (BCTQ) at baseline, 3, and 6 months’ follow-up. Baseline characteristics and severity of CTS symptoms at follow-up were compared between the intervention and care-as-usual groups using a t test and χ 2 tests. Time to event (surgery) between the groups was analyzed using Kaplan-Meier survival analysis and Cox proportional hazards analysis.
The intervention group had fewer surgeries (28%) compared to the care-as-usual group (43%) during follow-up (χ2 1 = 4.40, p = .036). Analyses of the survival curves revealed a statistically significant difference between the groups over time (log-rank test χ 2 1 = 6.94, p = .008). At 6 months’ follow-up, symptom severity and functional status scores had significantly decreased from baseline in both groups (p < .001) and the improvements did not differ between the two groups.
Mechanical traction is associated with fewer surgical interventions compared to care as usual in CTS patients. Reductions in patient-reported symptoms at 6 months’ follow-up was similar in both groups. The long-term effects of mechanical traction require further evaluation.Keywords: Boston carpal tunnel questionnaire, Carpal tunnel release surgery, Carpal tunnel syndrome, Mechanical traction
Original languageEnglish
Article number464
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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