Carpal tunnel syndrome. Part I: effectiveness of nonsurgical treatments--a systematic review

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2010 Jul;91(7):981-1004. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2010.03.022.


Objective: To review literature systematically concerning effectiveness of nonsurgical interventions for treating carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).

Data sources: The Cochrane Library, PubMed, EMBASE, CINAHL, and PEDro were searched for relevant systematic reviews and randomized controlled trials (RCTs).

Study selection: Two reviewers independently applied the inclusion criteria to select potential studies.

Data extraction: Two reviewers independently extracted the data and assessed the methodologic quality.

Data synthesis: A best-evidence synthesis was performed to summarize the results of the included studies. Two reviews and 20 RCTs were included. Strong and moderate evidence was found for the effectiveness of oral steroids, steroid injections, ultrasound, electromagnetic field therapy, nocturnal splinting, and the use of ergonomic keyboards compared with a standard keyboard, and traditional cupping versus heat pads in the short term. Also, moderate evidence was found for ultrasound in the midterm. With the exception of oral and steroid injections, no long-term results were reported for any of these treatments. No evidence was found for the effectiveness of oral steroids in long term. Moreover, although higher doses of steroid injections seem to be more effective in the midterm, the benefits of steroids injections were not maintained in the long term. For all other nonsurgical interventions studied, only limited or no evidence was found.

Conclusions: The reviewed evidence supports that a number of nonsurgical interventions benefit CTS in the short term, but there is sparse evidence on the midterm and long-term effectiveness of these interventions. Therefore, future studies should concentrate not only on short-term but also on midterm and long-term results.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use*
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome / therapy*
  • Complementary Therapies
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Field Therapy
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Splints
  • Ultrasonic Therapy


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones