Carpal tunnel syndrome, also known as CTS, is a common condition, especially as people age. CTS occurs when the median nerve, which is one of the major nerves in the arm, becomes pinched in the wrist. This pinching can cause pain, tingling, or numbness throughout the hand and arm.
As time goes on, if carpal tunnel syndrome is not treated, it can continue to get worse. There are many treatments that are currently being used for CTS, and they often involve wearing a splint, limiting range of motion or particular activities, or receiving corticosteroid injections. However, if these initial treatments do not work, permanent nerve damage can occur. In these more severe cases, surgical procedures are often used to relieve pressure from the nerve.
A new treatment is growing in popularity as a means to reduce pressure on the median nerve without having to undergo surgery. This treatment utilizes platelet-rich plasma, which is a concentrated portion of human blood that contains a many growth factors that are important for tissue healing.
What is Platelet-Rich Plasma?
Human blood is mainly composed of two components: red blood cells and white blood cells. The white blood cells are also known as the plasma, and there are lots of platelets in this portion of the blood. Platelets contain tons of growth factors, which play various roles in healing, including generating new blood vessels, reducing inflammation levels, and activating stem cells in the area to regrow damaged bone and cartilage.
A sample of blood is drawn from the patient undergoing the injection, and the blood is centrifuged to isolate the platelet rich plasma from the rest of the blood. Then, this plasma is injected directly into the damaged area. The platelets and growth factors are then able to improve healing in the target area, recruiting additional cells and speeding up the healing process.
Corticosteroid injections are one of the most common treatments for CTS. One study looked at the difference in the effectiveness between corticosteroid and PRP treatments. Thirty-six patients, all with mild to moderate CTS, participated in the study. Half of the individuals received PRP injections while the other half received corticosteroid injections. A single injection was given to each group, and pain and functionality were both evaluated at baseline, one month after the injection, and three months after the injection.
The study saw improvement with both treatments, but the group receiving PRP injections improved significantly more. Individuals in the PRP group showed a 35 percent reduction in symptoms after three months, while the corticosteroid group noted only a 22 percent decrease.
Similar results were seen with functionality scores. After three months, the PRP therapy injection group showed a 27 percent improvement in functionality, but only a 15 percent improvement was seen with the corticosteroid group. The researchers concluded that PRP therapy was much more beneficial for CTS than the corticosteroid treatment.
Another study looked at 60 individuals with mild or moderate CTS. Most of the patients were found to have moderate CTS. Thirty of these patients received a PRP injection while the other 30 wore a splint overnight for the duration of the study period.
The participants were evaluated for pain levels, symptoms, and functionality through a finger pinch strength test. Evaluations were completed at one, three, and six months after the initial injection. Researchers found that the PRP group responded much better than the control group, especially as the time after the injection continued to increase.
At six months, patients that underwent a PRP injection experienced almost twice as much pain relief as those in the control group. Similar results were seen in regard to hand functionality. PRP patients reported significantly better functionality at one, three, and six months. The functionality increase, similar to pain relief, was about twice as much in the PRP group than the corticosteroid group.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful and potentially permanently debilitating injury. Conservative treatments that are used to try to avoid surgery have not been shown to be highly effective in the long term. However, using platelet rich plasma has shown a lot of promise in reducing pain, improving wrist and hand functionality, and reducing the need for surgery. Let Southwest Spine & Sports help you get back to a pain free life! Contact us for more information on CTS treatments.