Treating carpal tunnel syndrome with acupuncture has now become accepted practice by the US medical profession. 

  • Acupuncture is one of the best known alternative medicines
  • Needles are inserted into key pressure points which are located on invisible energy lines on the body – meridians
  • Acupuncture is now recognised by the US FDA as a reputable method of treatment
  • Acupuncture relieves pain and stimulates circulation
  • Research supports acupuncture as an effective treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome


Carpal Tunnel Helpline - Treatments - Acupuncture

Acupuncture is one of the best known of the alternative therapies. The US Federal Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that people in the United States spend more than $500 million annually on acupuncture treatments. Many people now have insurance cover that includes acupuncture. Since 1997, acupuncture has been recognised by the FDA and the US medical profession as an acceptable treatment for certain conditions – including carpal tunnel syndrome.

Acupuncture: a key component of Chinese medicine:

Acupuncture is a key component of traditional Chinese medicine that originated in China over 5,000 years ago. It is based on the belief that living beings have a vital energy (qi or Chi) that circulates through twelve invisible energy lines known as meridians on the body. Each meridian is associated with a different organ system. An imbalance in the flow of qi throughout a meridian is how disease begins.

Carpal Tunnel Helplibe - Treatment - acupuncture -Woman receiving acupuncture treatment for back pain

Acupuncturists insert needles into specified points along these meridian lines to help restore balance to the flow of qi. There are over 1,000 acupuncture points on the body.

So, how does it work?

In reality, Western doctors don’t really know. So a number of theories have evolved. For example, it is suggested that the meridians relate to functions of the central nervous system and the autonomic nervous system. Certainly, the ancient concepts of Qi flowing along meridians have been displaced by a more acceptable neurological model.

Carpal tunnel helpline - Acupuncture points in chinese medicineThe traditional theories of acupuncture have been challenged in the West.  Ancient concepts of Qi flowing in meridians have been displaced in the minds of many practitioners by a neurological model, based on evidence that acupuncture needles stimulate nerve endings and alter brain function, particularly the intrinsic pain inhibitory mechanisms. As a result, a number of theories have evolved about how acupuncture actually works on the body and its various elements:

  • acupuncture stimulates the release of pain-relieving endorphins;
  • it influences the release of neurotransmitters – substances that transmit nerve impulses to the brain;
  • acupuncture influences the autonomic nervous system;
  • it stimulates circulation;
  • acupuncture influences the electrical currents of the body.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Acupuncture:

Carpal Tunnel Helpline - Treatments - Acupuncture - neede in wristCarpal Tunnel Syndrome – like other conditions – is seen as a disruption in the flow of energy through the body.  There is a growing body of evidence that using acupuncture to treat carpal tunnel syndrome can eliminate the need for surgery or the use of anti-inflammatory drugs or corticosteroids.

What is more, recent research studies and clinical trials indicate that acupuncture is at least as effective as injections of corticosteroids in relieving the pain associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. And without the problems associated with steroid injections. It could be argued therefore that acupuncture is coming into the medical mainstream – especially given the ruling by the FDA, see below. 

Carpal Tunnel Helpline - Treatment - Acupuncture needle in hand

FDA approval for acupuncture:

In 1997 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reclassified acupuncture needles from “experimental” to “medical device”. At the same time, the National Institute of Health released a statement endorsing acupuncture for the treatment of a variety of conditions including: post-operative pain, tennis elbow and carpal tunnel syndrome

This may explain why use of acupuncture has been on the increase. The medical profession as a whole is starting to recognise the contribution that acupuncture can make in reducing inflammation and pain not only in the wrist but also in the neck and shoulder.

Acupuncture not only relieves the immediate pain and stiffness in the wrist but can help with muscle stiffness, headaches and the sleeping problems that often accompany this painful condition. Acupuncture can be used for analgesia (pain relief) and improving mobility. It can also be used for improving circulation and healing within the body.

As indicated above, as well as reducing swelling, inflammation and pain in the wrist, acupuncture will also help with any associated pain – headaches, neck pain, shoulder pain etc.

Acupuncture treatment by therapist:

Treatment length varies from a few minutes to over an hour. The typical length is about 20 to 30 minutes.

An acupuncturist will typically use some 6-12 needles during the treatment session. The number of needles used does not correspond with the intensity of the treatment; it is the precise placement of the needles that is important.

When being inserted, you may feel a slight sting or prick. However, once the needle has been inserted, there should be no pain. You should feel comfortable during the treatment.

The acupuncturist may decide to use one of the following techniques during the treatment:

Moxibustion: heating of the acupuncture needles with dried herb sticks. 

Cupping: use of glass cups to create suction; to relieve stagnation of qi and blood.

Electrostimulation: attachment of electrodes and electrical stimulation to acupuncture needles.

Laser acupuncture: non-needle stimulation of pressure points.

 Acupuncture at home:

It is possible to perform acupuncture at home on yourself. It is claimed that this is perfectly safe. And it can certainly save money. However, the thought of sticking needles into myself seems a bit like masochism and we recommend that you start with acupressure before doing anything else.

More information on self-acupuncture: Steth News

carpal Tunnel Helpline  - Treatments - Acupuncture

Historical Note:

The first document that unequivocally described an organized system of diagnosis and treatment which is recognized as acupuncture is The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, dating from about 100 BCE. The information is presented in the form of questions by the Emperor and learned replies from his minister, Chhi-Po

The text is likely to be a compilation of traditions handed down over centuries, presented in terms of the prevailing Taoist philosophy, and is still cited in support of particular therapeutic techniques. The concepts of channels (meridians or conduits in which the Qi (vital energy or life force) flowed were well established by this time, though the precise anatomical locations of acupuncture points developed later.