Background: Alternative medical therapies are widely utilized, but there are few objective data to evaluate the effectiveness of these techniques. The purpose of this study was to determine whether one alternative therapy, Therapeutic Touch (TT), can improve objective indices of median nerve function in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome.
Methods: Participants with electrodiagnostically confirmed carpal tunnel syndrome were randomly assigned in single-blind fashion to receive either TT or sham therapeutic touch once weekly for 6 consecutive weeks. The distal latency of the median motor nerve along with visual analog assessments of pain and relaxation were measured before and after each treatment session.
Results: Twenty-one participants completed the study. Changes in median motor nerve distal latencies, pain scores, and relaxation scores did not differ between participants in the TT group and participants in the sham treatment group, either immediately after each treatment session or cumulatively. Immediately after each treatment session, however, there were improvements from baseline among all the outcome variables in both groups.
Conclusions: In this small study, TT was no better than placebo in influencing median motor nerve distal latencies, pain scores, and relaxation scores. The changes in the outcome variables from baseline in both groups suggest a possible physiologic basis for the placebo effect.