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Researchers at Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (Boston) have found acupuncture effective for the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Results were published in Brain, a journal founded in 1878 that is dedicated to the publication of landmark findings in both clinical neurology and translational neuroscience.

The research team used subjective and objective instruments to measure patient outcomes. Questionnaires assessed pain and paraesthesia. Nerve conduction studies assessed improvement in median nerve function. Brain imaging data using fMRIs (functional magnetic resonance imaging) was used to measure somatotopic arrangements. Somatotopy maps the correspondence of specific points on the body to specific areas of the brain and other areas of the central nervous system.
In a landmark finding, the researchers find that acupuncture “may improve median nerve function at the wrist by somatotopically distinct neuroplasticity in the primary somatosensory cortex following therapy.”

In other words, acupuncture elicits measurable improvements in brain areas correlated with positive patient outcomes for patients with carpal tunnel syndrome. The researchers add that somatotopic improvements elicited by acupuncture “can predict long-term clinical outcomes for carpal tunnel syndrome.”

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