Central sensitization does not identify patients with carpal tunnel syndrome who are likely to achieve short-term success with physical therapy

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The aim of the current study was to identify whether hyperexcitability of the central nervous system is a prognostic factor for individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) likely to experience rapid and clinical self-reported improvement following a physical therapy program including soft tissue mobilization and nerve slider neurodynamic interventions. Women presenting with clinical and electrophysiological findings of CTS were involved in a prospective single-arm trial. Participants underwent a standardized examination and then a physical therapy session. The physical therapy sessions included both soft tissue mobilization directed at the anatomical sites of potential median nerve entrapment and a passive nerve slider neurodynamic technique targeted to the median nerve. Pressure pain thresholds (PPT) over the median, radial and ulnar nerves, C5-C6 zygapophyseal joint, carpal tunnel and tibialis anterior muscle were assessed bilaterally. Additionally, thermal detection and pain thresholds were measured over the carpal tunnel and thenar eminence bilaterally to evaluate central nervous system excitability. Subjects were classified as responders (having achieved a successful outcome) or non-responders based on self-perceived recovery. Variables were entered into a stepwise logistic regression model to determine the most accurate variables for determining prognosis. Data from 72 women were included in the analysis, of which 35 experienced a successful outcome (48.6%). Three variables including PPT over the C5-C6 joint affected side <137 kPa, HPT carpal tunnel affected side <39.6° and general health >66 points were identified. If 2 out of 3 variables were present (LR + 14.8), the likelihood of success increased from 48.6 to 93.3%. We identified 3 factors that may be associated with a rapid clinical response to both soft tissue mobilization and nerve slider neurodynamic techniques targeted to the median nerve in women presenting with CTS. Our results support that widespread central sensitization may not be present in women with CTS who are likely to achieve a successful outcome with physical therapy. Future studies are now necessary to validate these findings. © 2010 Springer-Verlag.

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