Objective: The purpose of this randomized trial was to compare the efficacy of manual therapy, including the use of neurodynamic techniques, with electrophysical modalities on patients with mild and moderate carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). Methods: The study included 140 CTS patients who were randomly assigned to the manual therapy (MT) group, which included the use of neurodynamic techniques, functional massage, and carpal bone mobilizations techniques, or to the electrophysical modalities (EM) group, which included laser and ultrasound therapy. Nerve conduction, pain severity, symptom severity, and functional status measured by the Boston Carpal Tunnel Questionnaire were assessed before and after treatment. Therapy was conducted twice weekly and both groups received 20 therapy sessions. Results: A baseline assessment revealed group differences in sensory conduction of the median nerve (P b .01) but not in motor conduction (P = .82). Four weeks after the last treatment procedure, nerve conduction was examined again. In the MT group, median nerve sensory conduction velocity increased by 34% and motor conduction velocity by 6% (in both cases, P b .01). There was no change in median nerve sensory and motor conduction velocities in the EM. Distal motor latency was decreased (P b .01) in both groups. A baseline assessment revealed no group differences in pain severity, symptom severity, or functional status. Immediately after therapy, analysis of variance revealed group differences in pain severity (P b .01), with a reduction in pain in both groups (MT: 290%, P b .01; EM: 47%, P b .01). There were group differences in symptom severity (P b .01) and function (P b .01) on the Boston Carpal Tunnel Questionnaire. Both groups had an improvement in functional status (MT: 47%, P b .01; EM: 9%, P b .01) and a reduction in subjective CTS symptoms (MT: 67%, P b .01; EM: 15%, P b .01). Conclusion: Both therapies had a positive effect on nerve conduction, pain reduction, functional status, and subjective symptoms in individuals with CTS. However, the results regarding pain reduction, subjective symptoms, and functional status were better in the MT group. (J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2017;40:263-272)
There were several methodological limitations to the study, most importantly that there was no follow-up evaluation; we were therefore unable to draw conclusions about the long-term effects because the improvements that we observed may have been temporary. Both therapy regimes investigated have nevertheless been reported to have substantial beneficial effects on multiple symptoms of CTS. The lack of a no-treatment control group is another limitation, meaning that we were unable to quantify any effect of spontaneous healing in the study. Similarly, the lack of a control group receiving simulated therapy meant that we were unable to quantify any placebo effect in this study. Including a placebo treatment group would have made it possible to estimate the extent to which the therapeutic effects observed simply were due to participation in therapy rather than to the specific therapeutic techniques used. The use of multicomponent therapy regimens is a potential drawback to our study design, meaning that it was not possible to assess the independent contribution of each of the techniques; however, such comprehensive regimens are desirable and typical of clinical practice because they often produce better results.