A new study by the University of Michigan Health System finds that workers in the early stages of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) may find relief through nighttime splinting.
The study, performed in conjunction with the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, looked at 112 active workers at a Midwestern automotive assembly plant; the industry was chosen specifically because automotive assembly workers are five- to 10-times more likely to develop CTS than the general population. Each worker in the study had reported symptoms of CTS but none had sought medical treatment.
Sixty-three participants were fitted with a custom wrist-hand splint that kept the wrist in a neutral position overnight, and were instructed to wear the splint at night for six weeks. All 112 participants watched a 20-minute video at the start of the study that explained CTS and how to reduce CTS stressors in and out of the workplace.
After six weeks, approximately half of the splinted group reported a significant improvement in their symptoms and reported a decrease in hand, wrist, elbow and forearm discomfort over the non-splinted group. Participants who reported the highest levels of discomfort at the onset of the study reported the greatest improvements associated with splint use.
According to the study’s lead author, Robert A. Werner, M.D., MS, professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Michigan Health System, custom fit or store-bought splints for night-time use are the best first-line of defense for early symptoms of CTS, but have minimal effect for people with advanced CTS. Additionally, Werner cautioned against splinting during active day-time use because of the additional strain it can cause on the wrist.
Source: University of Michigan Health System