Is your wrist hurting? An encouraging case study was published in March 2020 by the Korean Institute of Pharmaco-acupuncture: a 55-year-old patient who suffered from infiltration-resistant carpal tunnel syndrome saw her pain disappear in 3 sessions. After making a small incision, the acupuncturist uses a round-tipped needle that allows you to massage, without damaging them, the tissues of the wrist ligament and of reduce compression of nerves.
The downsides: this good result has yet to be confirmed and, above all, this technique, common in South Korea, has not been developed in France where classical acupuncture orelectro-acupuncture.
Where to plant the needles to stop the pain?
The needles stimulate points located along the meridians in order to rebalance the energies of the body.
- Point 7MC, placed on the wrist crease between the two flexor tendons, is always stimulated. Point 6MC, located 3 through fingers below the first, is very often targeted in combination.
- Acupuncture reduces numbness by improving sensory nerve impulses to the median nerve.
- It decreases mechanical pressure of the two flexor tendons of the wrist, usually thickened with inflammation, and edema, on the median nerve.
- It triggers the secretion of pain relieving substances (endorphins) and anti-inflammatory drugs.
When to use acupuncture for the carpal tunnel?
Once the general practitioner or rheumatologist has established the diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome, (possibly via an electromyogram), it is better to try acupuncture as soon as possible, when symptoms are still moderate.
“Preferably before the infiltrations, which are recommended by the High Authority of Health and effective, but which present undesirable effects. The ideal is to do the sessions in parallel with the wearing of the night rest splint: studies show better results compared to the splint alone “, indicates Dr Olivier Goret, acupuncturist doctor.
Do not hesitate to schedule 2 to 3 sessions from the first week, even if it is very painful, because the longer you wait, the more the compression gets worse. On the other hand, acupuncture is not sufficient for severe forms, when there is already an atrophy of the muscles of the thumb or when it is difficult to move the first 3 fingers, which reveals a motor impairment of the median nerve. . “In these cases, surgery is the best option to free the nerve,” says the specialist.
The acupuncturist pricks at least the two most used points and leaves the needles in place for about 20 minutes.
If he uses electro-acupuncture (the method chosen in half of the conclusive studies), he connects the needles to a small device to charge them with a direct low-frequency electric current to improve nerve stimulation.
In both cases, the needle penetrates deep under the skin (about 8-11 mm), “but we never directly stimulate the nerve, we prick sideways so as not to risk damaging it”, reassures Dr Goret. We can sometimes feel like a slight sensation of electric shock very bearable, radiating to the fingertips, which fades during the session and then disappears.
How many sessions should I plan?
Validated protocols matter 8 to 15 sessions (12 on average), at a rate of 2-3 times a week, that is to say a treatment of one month to a month and a half.
“We can not judge the effectiveness before this time, because neuropathic pain takes a long time to treat,” says the doctor.
What can we really expect from it?
Several studies show that the use of acupuncture reduces nighttime pain at least as much, if not more, than taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, as well as numbness and discomfort in movement. “The pain and tingling gradually decrease over the course of the sessions. In my experience with over 1,000 people with carpal tunnel syndrome, there is improvement. which can last at least 6 months, or even a cure in about 60% of cases. The earlier you deal with the problem, the more likely you are to see the symptoms disappear completely, ”says Dr Goret.
Are the sessions reimbursed?
A session costs between 40 and 90 €, depending on where you live. It must be prescribed by your attending physician and performed by an approved acupuncturist physician. It is then reimbursed on the basis of a consultation of the general practitioner (25 €) up to 70%, then acupuncture specialist acts at 18 €.
If you choose to see your acupuncturist directly, without going through your general practitioner (if it is not the same), social security coverage drops to 30%. Some mutuals offer packages to supplement reimbursement.