Carpal tunnel syndrome is becoming increasingly common among people in the western world. It’s caused by an irritation of the nerve, the median nerve, that runs from your forearm into the hand. It’s most often a repetitive stress injury, an overuse injury of the hand, although it may have other causes. Once it’s been diagnosed, treatment can consist of splinting, pain medications, injections of steroids, or even surgery.
The authors of this article investigated how effective steroid injections were for the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome. To do this, researchers studied 32 patients who, between them all, had 48 hands with carpal tunnel syndrome. The researchers assessed the patients’ pain using the visual analog scale (zero to 10 rating, zero being no pain and 10 the worst pain ever), and the Korean version of the Boston Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Questionnaire (one to five rating, one is mildest function disruption and five is worst).
The researchers also evaluated the hands using electrodiagnostics, recording the electrical activity and electromyography (EMG), which measures how the electrical impulses are transmitted.
When the patients received the steroid injections, they all received it with the same technique and solution.
The results of the study showed that although the steroid injection was helpful, there were limitations to the treatment. Patients with moderate or severe carpal tunnel syndrome did show good improvement when they were assessed for pain an function at four weeks and eight weeks after the injection. But, for patients with moderate carpal tunnel syndrome, testing with the electrodiagnosis showed improvement at four weeks but this was gone by eight weeks. For those with severe carpal tunnel syndrome, it wasn’t improved at either time period.
The authors concluded that steroid injections “are safe and effective treatment for temporary relief of symptoms associated with [carpal tunnel syndrome] in patients who have failed to improve with splinting and activity modification.” They point out, however, that the treatment doesn’t provide long-term results.