Steroid Shots a Temporary Fix for Carpal Tunnel?
Three-quarters of patients still had to have surgery a year later
Within 10 weeks, people who received steroid injections were less likely to report pain, numbness, tingling or other symptoms.
Three out of four patients who received steroids, however, needed surgery within one year.
Those most likely to benefit from steroid shots are people under 30 with mild symptoms and less pressure on their median nerve. "You have a reasonable chance of having your symptoms go away and stay gone with the cortisone shot," Ruch said.
But steroid shots will improve symptoms for only about six months in people over 35 who have moderate to severe carpal tunnel syndrome, he said.
Despite these findings, doctors will continue to use steroid shots as a first-line treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome, said Dr. Leon Benson, of the Illinois Bone & Joint Institute in Glenview, Ill.
Steroid shots help doctors rule out other potential causes for the symptoms patients are experiencing. If the steroid shots don't work, then the patient probably has something other than carpal tunnel syndrome.
"Injection is a crucial and important part of treating patients with carpal tunnel syndrome initially, because it helps confirm the diagnosis," Benson said. "I never operate on anyone unless I've given them a steroid injection first."
The patient's response to a steroid injection also serves as a good prediction for how well they'll respond to surgery, Ruch added.
"It does a very nice job of delineating who is going to have a good response to surgery," he said. "If you had good relief from your cortisone shot, chances are very, very high you're going to get good results from surgery."
To avoid carpal tunnel syndrome, you can:
- Perform stretching exercises on your wrists.
- Take frequent breaks.
- Wear splints or braces to keep your wrists straight.
- Ask your employer to rotate your job or perform an ergonomic assessment of your work space.