Lightweight splints that hold the wrist in a neutral position are more help for carpal tunnel syndrome when they are worn full-time than when only worn overnight, according to a recent study.
"This study represents the first (scientific) trial to analyze different splint wear instructions," said Dr. William C. Walker and associates from the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond.
Carpal tunnel syndrome consists of pain and tingling caused by pressure on the nerve running through the wrist into the hand.
The investigators assessed nerve function, symptoms, and ability to perform daily activities in 17 people with carpal tunnel syndrome.
Their findings are published in the April issue of the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
Regardless of the schedule worn, wrist splints improved nerve measurements and symptoms in carpal tunnel patients, the authors reported.
Wearing the splint full-time gave the best improvements in nerve function, but this improvement did not translate into superior symptom relief or improved ability to perform daily activities.
Perhaps, the researchers suggested, the lack of improvements in symptoms and day-to-day functioning resulted from full-time wearers being more likely to take off their splints.
Only 27 percent of the full-time wearers actually kept the splints on all day or nearly all day.
This is the first study to show an improvement in daily functioning with splinting.
"This finding is important because function is not always correlated with symptoms (particularly pain), and cannot be assumed to improve when symptoms improve," said the authors.
"These findings support the use of splints in severe carpal tunnel syndrome," Walker and colleagues suggested.
They recommended that "patients should be instructed to wear the splint continuously during the day, in addition to during the night."
by Virginia Sutcliffe