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Research has long shown that physical therapy is an effective treatment option for CTS. A new study offers yet another reason to choose or recommend physical therapy over surgery for CTS — the overall value it provides.

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the nerve near the base of the palm at the wrist (median nerve) becomes compressed. It causes pain, a feeling of numbness or burning in the hand, and reduced grip strength and movement. CTS is often linked to jobs that require repetitive hand movements.

Choosing physical therapy to treat CTS outperforms surgery. In addition to saving health care dollars, it helps patients to:

  • Gain immediate short-term pain relief.
  • Increase hand and wrist strength while improving long-term function that supports better health.
  • Avoid potential surgery-related problems.
  • Build confidence in the ability to address symptoms if they occur in the future.
  • Avoid missing life events with downtime from surgery.

Learn more about physical therapist treatment in the Physical Therapy Guide to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Graphic illustration of the carpal tunnel syndrome findings in the Economic Value of Physical Therapy Report

Researchers calculated the economic impact of choosing physical therapy for CTS over surgery. They found that doing so saves $39,533, including all the hidden costs of your time, pain, missed life events, and the dollars paid for services. This graphic summarizes their analysis, outlined in an easy-to-read paper covering this and seven other conditions.

Health care dollars are finite. This research can help to influence policies that better enable patient access to treatment options. It also may lead to health plan coverage that is both clinically effective and value-based. Patients and the health care system benefit when our health care dollars go further.

Physical therapists are movement experts. They improve quality of life through hands-on care, patient education, and prescribed movement. You do not need a referral* to see a physical therapist in the United States. Visit Find a PT to search for a physical therapist in your area.

Find a PT Near You

*Your insurance policy, corporate policies, or state practice laws may still require a referral. Some states may limit the type or duration of treatment without a referral.


View additional Did You Know? articles on all eight conditions on our Value of Physical Therapy page.


Additional Resources


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The Economic Value of Physical Therapy in the United States, a report from the American Physical Therapy Association.

Fernández-de-Las-Peñas C, Ortega-Santiago R, Díaz HF, et al. Cost-Effectiveness Evaluation of Manual Physical Therapy Versus Surgery for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Evidence From a Randomized Clinical Trial. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2019;49(2):55-63. Article Summary on PubMed.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Physical Therapy or Surgery? J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2017;47(3):162. Article Summary on PubMed.

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