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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Health Center

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Steroids May Beat Surgery for Carpal Tunnel

Steroid Injections Provide Better Short-Term Relief of Pain From Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
WebMD Health News

Feb. 3, 2005 - Steroid injections may be more effective than surgery for short-term relief of painful carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms, according to a new study.

Researchers compared the effectiveness of steroid injections vs. surgery in relieving the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome over the course of a year and found that the shots were just as effective as surgery at long-term relief of pain and may actually be more effective in the short-term.

Although the pain, tingling, and weakness of the thumb, index , and middle fingers of the hand caused by carpal tunnel syndrome are common problems among computer workers and others who perform repetitive motions, researchers say there is no preferred treatment for the disorder.

The researchers say carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most commonly reported occupational illnesses.

The condition occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm to the base of the palm, becomes compressed by inflammation within a band of tissue in the wrist. Typically the symptoms are worse at night.

Mild cases may be treated with anti-inflammatory medications, local injections of steroids at the source of pain, or wearing splints on the hand and wrist to relieve pressure on the median nerve. More severe cases are often treated with surgery to decompress the nerve, since this condition can lead to partial loss of function of the thumb and permanent loss of sensation.

But the researchers say insufficient studies exist about the optimal treatment method for carpal tunnel syndrome.

Surgery vs. Shots for Carpal Tunnel

In the study, researchers looked at the effects of surgical treatment vs. steroid injections in 163 wrists belonging to 101 patients (93 women and 8 men) with newly onset carpal tunnel syndrome. All of the patients had carpal tunnel symptoms, such as nightly attacks of extreme tingling and burning in the hand and fingers that disrupted their sleep for at least three months.

Eighty of the wrists were treated with the standard surgical decompression procedure, and the remaining 83 were treated with local steroid injections. Fourteen days after treatment, 69 of the wrists that were treated with steroid injections received a second injection.

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