The Effectiveness of Manual Therapy Versus Surgery on Self-reported Function, Cervical Range of Motion, and Pinch Grip Force in Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: A Randomized Clinical Trial

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2017 Mar;47(3):151-161. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2017.7090. Epub 2017 Feb 3.


Study Design Randomized parallel-group trial. Background Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common pain condition that can be managed surgically or conservatively. Objective To compare the effectiveness of manual therapy versus surgery for improving self-reported function, cervical range of motion, and pinch-tip grip force in women with CTS. Methods In this randomized clinical trial, 100 women with CTS were randomly allocated to either a manual therapy (n = 50) or a surgery (n = 50) group. The primary outcome was self-rated hand function, assessed with the Boston Carpal Tunnel Questionnaire. Secondary outcomes included active cervical range of motion, pinch-tip grip force, and the symptom severity subscale of the Boston Carpal Tunnel Questionnaire. Patients were assessed at baseline and 1, 3, 6, and 12 months after the last treatment by an assessor unaware of group assignment. Analysis was by intention to treat, with mixed analyses of covariance adjusted for baseline scores. Results At 12 months, 94 women completed the follow-up. Analyses showed statistically significant differences in favor of manual therapy at 1 month for self-reported function (mean change, -0.8; 95% confidence interval [CI]: -1.1, -0.5) and pinch-tip grip force on the symptomatic side (thumb-index finger: mean change, 2.0; 95% CI: 1.1, 2.9 and thumb-little finger: mean change, 1.0; 95% CI: 0.5, 1.5). Improvements in self-reported function and pinch grip force were similar between the groups at 3, 6, and 12 months. Both groups reported improvements in symptom severity that were not significantly different at all follow-up periods. No significant changes were observed in pinch-tip grip force on the less symptomatic side and in cervical range of motion in either group. Conclusion Manual therapy and surgery had similar effectiveness for improving self-reported function, symptom severity, and pinch-tip grip force on the symptomatic hand in women with CTS. Neither manual therapy nor surgery resulted in changes in cervical range of motion. Level of Evidence Therapy, level 1b. Prospectively registered September 3, 2014 at (NCT02233660). J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2017;47(3):151-161. Epub 3 Feb 2017. doi:10.2519/jospt.2017.7090.

Keywords: carpal tunnel syndrome; cervical spine; force; manual therapy; neck; surgery.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome / rehabilitation*
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome / surgery*
  • Female
  • Hand Strength*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal Manipulations*
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Pain / rehabilitation
  • Pain / surgery
  • Pain Measurement
  • Range of Motion, Articular*
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome

Associated data