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Do cortisone injections work in the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome?

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Updated March 04, 2008

Question: Do cortisone injections work in the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that causes pain, numbness, and tingling sensations of the hand and fingers. The cause of carpal tunnel syndrome is pinching of one of the large nerves as it passes through the wrist joint. Treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome depends on the type and duration of symptoms.
Answer: Cortisone injections have long been used as a treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome. Recent studies have shown the effects of cortisone injections for carpal tunnel syndrome are as good as surgery for the first several months after the injection.

This is encouraging, as carpal tunnel syndrome is a common problem, and finding the best treatment for carpal tunnel can be difficult. Cortisone injections are not difficult to administer, although there are potential side effects.

However, many orthopedic surgeons feel that cortisone injections are often just a temporizing measure, and the effects will eventually wear out over time. Therefore, surgery may still be a better long-term solution to the problem of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Sources:

Hui, ACF, et al. "A randomized controlled trial of surgery vs steroid injection for carpal tunnel syndrome" Neurology 2005;64:2074-2078.

Marshall, S, et al. "Local corticosteroid injection for carpal tunnel syndrome" Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2002;(4):CD001554.

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