Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common condition that causes pain, numbness, and tingling in the hands and arms. The condition occurs when one of the major nerves to the hand, called the median nerve, is squeezed or compressed as it travels through the wrist.
Most patients with CTS report that the symptoms usually get worse over time, so early diagnosis and treatment are very important. According to research, PEMF therapy can provide significant benefits to people with mild to moderate CTS. PEMF therapy improves not only the symptoms of CTS but also nerve conduction and muscle strength. Using conventional treatments along with PEMF therapy probably would produce better results than either one alone. A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blinded study was conducted to evaluate the impacts of PEMF therapy in the treatment of CTS by comparing the efficacy of PEMF therapy versus surgical intervention in case of mild and moderate CTS.
Forty-five female patients diagnosed as mild to moderate CTS were enrolled in this study. Their age is 35-55 years old, and the average age is around 41 years old.
These patients were divided randomly into three equal groups, including placebo group I, PEMF group II and surgery group III. Subjects in group I received sham exposure, while patients in group II applied PEMF therapy over the area of the median nerve at wrist and forearm with frequency 50 Hz, intensity 40 gauss, and for the duration of 1 hour. The PEMF treatment regime consisted of 4 days/ week for 1 month. In addition, each subject in group III received surgical interference.
The outcome measurements included median nerve sensory distal latency (SDL), motor distal latency (MDL) and Boston carpal tunnel questionnaire (BCTQ). The measurements were carried out at baseline and three months later.
The measurements and analysis showed a significant decrease in SDL, MDL and BCTQ scores of both PEMF group and surgery group. On the other hand, there were non-significant increases of any variable in the placebo group.
Despite the equal baseline of all groups before treatment, there was a significant decrease in all measurements of both PEMF group and surgery group than the placebo group, and a significant decrease in all measurements of the PEMF group than the surgery group.
Considering the risks and complications of the surgery, PEMF therapy should be the first line of treatment, improving median nerve function and managing the symptoms of mild to moderate CTS. The safety, convenience and effectiveness of PEMF therapy weigh heavily in favor of this particular approach. Generally, surgery should only be considered for the most severe cases and when PEMF therapy has failed. Even if available PEMF devices on the market are not exactly comparable to those used in this study, they also have the potential to produce similar results.
Ewidea M and Hamed H. Pulsed magnetic field versus surgery in carpal tunnel syndrome: a randomized, placebo controlled double blind study 2010 Jan;15(1):101-107. The Advanced Science Journal Feb 2015(1): 10-18.