Neck, Shoulders, Arms,
Return to Chapter Index
Tunnel Syndrome: Surgery or Splinting?
When it comes to treating carpal tunnel syndrome, saving
the most invasive for last may not be such a good idea. A study in the
September 11, 2002, issue of the Journal of the American Medical
Association (JAMA) suggests surgery, usually the last resort, may
work better than splinting for some people suffering from the condition.
Carpal tunnel syndrome causes aching, tingling, or numbness
in the hand when the median nerve running through the wrist is compressed
or damaged. Splinting the wrist and hand at night is the most common
treatment. Other conservative treatment options include anti-inflammatory
drugs or corticosteroid injections into the wrist to relieve inflammation.
If all else fails, surgery can cut a ligament in the wrist and relieve
pressure on the nerve.
In the JAMA study, Dutch researchers compared
splinting to surgery. A total of 176 patients either wore a splint at
night for six weeks or received surgery on the wrist. In the following
18 months, participants completed questionnaires on how they felt. Physical
therapists also assessed their progress.
After three months, 80% of the surgery patients had improved,
compared to only 54% of the patients who wore a splint. Patients in the
surgery group were also more likely to experience complete recovery than
patients in the splinting group. Even after 18 months, surgery was still
more successful at relieving the symptoms. In fact, by the end of the
study, 41% of the patients in the splinting group had gone on to receive
These results suggest surgery may be the best first-line
treatment option for some people with carpal tunnel syndrome. However,
it may not be the ideal treatment for everyone; the study did not include
pregnant women or people with diabetes. Further research is needed to
determine how surgery measures up against anti-inflammatory drugs or
November 2002 Update
Back to Top
Drinking Tea Benefits Heart and Bones
The health benefits of drinking tea have been well publicized lately,
and recent studies point to two newly discovered advantages to consuming
this beverage. One shows that drinking tea can help prevent death after
a heart attack. The other reports that tea may increase bone mineral
density, which helps prevent fractures and osteoporosis.
In the first study, published in Circulation, researchers questioned
1,900 patients hospitalized for heart attacks about the amount of caffeinated
tea they drank in the past year. After adjusting for age, gender, and
other variables, researchers found that those who drank 14 or more cups
of tea per week were 39% less likely to die of cardiovascular disease
in the 3.8 years following their heart attack than non-tea drinkers.
Patients who consumed 114 cups of tea per week were 31% less likely
to die from cardiovascular causes during that period than non-tea drinkers.
When researchers further looked into subjects' caffeine intake, they
found that caffeine from sources other than tea did not affect death
In the second study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine,
researchers surveyed 1,037 men and women age 30 and older about their
tea consumption. Subjects who drank tea at least once a week for the
preceding six months were labeled "habitual tea drinkers." This
group was asked about their tea-drinking history, the kind of tea they
drank, how often they drank it, and how much they drank in each sitting.
Researchers then measured the bone mineral density (BMD) of the lumbar
spine, hip, neck, and total body of both the habitual tea drinkers and
The researchers found that people who consumed tea regularly for more
than 10 years had the highest BMD scores compared to the other groups,
after they adjusted for sex, age, weight, and lifestyle variables that
may affect BMD. Those who drank tea regularly for the past 610
years also had significantly higher lumbar spine BMDs than the nonhabitual
tea drinkers. People who consistently drank tea for the past 15
years did not have any significant differences in BMD score compared
to the nonhabitual drinkers.
It didn't seem to matter what type of tea the person drank, and neither
did the amount of tea consumed each time. Only duration of habitual tea
consumption was an independent predictor of BMD score. Tea contains several
components, including fluoride and flavonoids, which may work separately
or in concert to maintain or restore bone density.
Although BMD score is often a good gauge of the risk of fracture from
osteoporosis, this study did not actually test the link between tea consumption
and bone fracture.
July 2002 Update
Back to Top