Case Studies:

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome & Wrist Pain


The client

Jane (50) came to Gardenvale Traditional Chinese Medicine with pain and ganglions affecting both her wrists. The pain had started five months earlier and was gradually worsening. She experienced pain deep within the wrist joints, occasionally radiating up the forearm and down the thumb, worse with certain movements and at night when numbness and tingling would disturb her sleep. She had previously been diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS).

Jane also had considerable neck, shoulder and upper back tension and soreness, and for years she had been experiencing hot flushes both night and day. Her job required constant use of her hands and involved many repetitive fine motor skill movements. Combined with a busy family life, lots of time spent cooking and doing general house duties, her wrists and hands were overworked and rarely got a rest.

Upon examination, a tender ganglion could be felt on her right wrist crease, near her radial pulse, as well as a larger ganglion on the back of her left wrist.

wristanatomy Ganglion-Cyst-In-Wrist

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a condition leading to pain and numbness in the wrists, hands and fingers. It is caused by compression of the nerves passing through the wrist joint, usually as a result of previous injury to the wrist, continual repetitive movements or fluid retention.

What is a Ganglion?

A ganglion is a benign cyst or ‘ball’ of fluid that can form in a joint or on a tendon, usually on the hands. The cause is unknown, though ganglions seem to appear in areas that endure excessive use or have suffered an injury. In Traditional Chinese Medicine ganglions are viewed as a sign of blockage.

‘Mapping’ of Jane’s Pain

In Jane’s case acupuncture was used to relieve the nerve compression within her wrists, alleviate pain in all affected areas and reduce the ganglions. The exact locations of pain and numbness were ‘mapped’ according to acupuncture meridians.

Meridians of the arms, hands, neck and back

Meridians of the arms, hands, neck and back

Jane’s Acupuncture Treatments:

Jane had an intense course of acupuncture consisting of 2-3 treatments a week for 3 weeks. Treatments initially involved massage of the wrists, hands, arms, neck and shoulders to loosen muscle tension and locate problem areas.

A balancing method was chosen to keep the acupuncture treatments simple yet effective. There are many benefits to the balancing method: Fewer needles and meridians are used, even when multiple areas are treated, and the client can still move the affected areas and feel instant change during the treatment. Needling away from the painful areas and using as few meridians as possible to balance Jane’s body meant acupuncture points on the inside of both her ankles and lower legs were needled.

Women acupuncturist

During the first treatment Jane’s pain shifted and reduced (approx. 70%) with only few acupuncture points needled. With further ‘investigative’ palpation of the legs more tender points were found and needled to balance the ‘new’ pain locations. In total 7-10 acupuncture points on each leg were needled, as well as one point between her eyebrows to help improve sleep.


Treatment Plan and Recommendations:

In addition to the acupuncture treatments Jane was prescribed herbal pills to help sleep and reduce hot flushes, and a herbal liniment to massage onto her wrists daily. It was strongly recommended she rested her hands and wrists and used wrist straps or braces for support when necessary.

Jane’s muscle tightness related to her posture and how she used her upper body. Lifestyle and exercise recommendations were discussed to address the causes of this tightness.

After a few treatments Jane no longer felt numbness or tingling in her hands, sleep improved and her body aches and hot flushes had reduced significantly.

Despite Jane not resting her wrists, thus repeatedly aggravating her problems, her pain was much more manageable and had reduced by 90% after a few weeks of consistent treatments. The carpal tunnel syndrome appeared resolved. The ganglions were still present but appeared smaller and were not painful.

It’s All About Balance

This case exemplifies a common complaint with clear causes. However, it’s not always clear what treatment to choose when you suffer aches and pains. Conventional medicine offers surgery, braces and painkillers for problems like carpal tunnel syndrome and ganglions. Acupuncture offers a safe and less invasive alternative or complementary treatment option without long-term side effects such as scar tissue and ongoing use of painkillers.

Trying to find that elusive balance between activity, rest and management is part of life for all of us. This becomes even more apparent once we reach a certain age, have endured a few injuries and wear and tear is starting to show!

If you’d like to know if acupuncture can help your aches and pains, please give us a call on 9530 6566.

Christina Tolstrup

 Christina Tolstrup
Chinese Medicine Practitioner