Effect of radial shock wave therapy for carpal tunnel syndrome: A prospective randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial

J Orthop Res. 2016 Jun;34(6):977-84. doi: 10.1002/jor.23113. Epub 2015 Dec 10.


Three recent studies demonstrated the positive effect of extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) for treating carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). However, none have entirely proved the effects of ESWT on CTS because all studies had a small sample size and lacked a placebo-controlled design. Moreover, radial ESWT (rESWT) has not been used to treat CTS. We conducted a prospective randomized, controlled, double-blinded study to assess the effect of rESWT for treating CTS. Thirty-four enrolled patients (40 wrists) were randomized into intervention and control groups (20 wrists in each). Participants in the intervention group underwent three sessions of rESWT with nightly splinting, whereas those in the control group underwent sham rESWT with nightly splinting. The primary outcome was visual analog scale (VAS), whereas the secondary outcomes included the Boston Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Questionnaire (BCTQ), cross-sectional area (CSA) of the median nerve, sensory nerve conduction velocity of the median nerve, and finger pinch strength. Evaluations were performed before treatment and at 1, 4, 8, and 12 weeks after the third rESWT session. A significantly greater improvement in the VAS, BCTQ scores, and CSA of the median nerve was noted in the intervention group throughout the study as compared to the control group (except for BCTQ severity at week 12 and CSA at weeks 1 and 4) (p < 0.05). This is the first study to assess rESWT in a randomized placebo-controlled trial and demonstrate that rESWT is a safe and effective method for relieving pain and disability in patients with CTS. © 2015 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Orthop Res 34:977-984, 2016.

Keywords: carpal tunnel syndrome; extracorporeal shock waves.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analgesia
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome / therapy*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • High-Energy Shock Waves / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Median Nerve
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies