From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Split With the Splint?

People with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome might want to drop their splints and opt for the knife, or so says a recent study reported by the Journal of the American Medical Association.

According to a Dutch study of patients with moderate Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, surgery provides far better long term relief than the more-often-prescribed splints with significant improvements being seen in 80 percent of surgery patients after three months compared to only 54 percent of splint patients.  Success rates remained significantly higher for the surgery group after 18 months.

Currently splints are considered the first line of relief against Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (see Editor’s Note), and function under the premise of keeping the wrist from bending, therefore taking pressure off the affected carpal tunnel nerve and theoretically alleviating pain.  Surgery is rarely a first option, but the Dutch study indicated that due to surgery’s higher success rate, it should be.

The study tested 176 Carpal Tunnel patients who were being treated either by splint or who had previously been treated by surgery. It is estimated that over five million people suffer from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in the United States alone. 
–Associated Press and

Editor’s note: Splints are not ergonomic interventions and should never be used for injury prevention. Additionally, while the findings in this study are likely to be well received by surgeons, they might not be so well received by insurers and those who pay the medical bills.

This article originally appeared in The Ergonomics Report™ on 2002-09-01.