Research > “A Phystrac traction treatment can prevent an operation”
Margreet Meems studied Biomedical Science in Maastricht before moving on to a master’s degree in Human Movement Science. In 2016, she earned her PhD with her study ‘Carpal tunnel syndrome during pregnancy and the postpartum period and the effect of mechanical traction treatment’. At the neurology department of the VieCuri hospital in Venlo, between 2013 and 2015, she researched the effect of treating carpal tunnel syndrome with the Phystrac traction device.
What did you know about carpal tunnel syndrome before you started your doctoral research?
“To be honest, I wasn’t familiar with CTS. But as I looked into it more deeply, I realised that this condition is very common. Almost everyone I spoke to knew someone with CTS or who had undergone an operation for it. Through research, I discovered that around 5 percent of the population has carpal tunnel syndrome. In some professions, that percentage is even around 10 percent. That means that a lot of people are experiencing pain and discomfort every day. However, until now, there had been relatively little representative research done into a successful conservative treatment for CTS. I hoped that with my study, I would be able to help people with CTS.”
What exactly did you research?
“I compared the effect of the Phystrac traction treatment with the efficacy of the usual care. This consists, among other things, of wearing a splint at night and steroid injections or an operation. We really wanted to know if CTS patients experienced a reduction in symptoms as a result of their treatment.”
How did you go about it?
“We set up a randomised trial, consisting of two research groups with an identical composition. There was an equal number of men and women in both groups, the average age was the same and the severity of the symptoms was also almost equal among all of the test subjects. The only difference was the treatment method.
From October 2013 up to and including May 2015, 181 people participated in the study. 87 of these received the usual care. The other 94 people were treated with the Phystrac traction device around twelve times in six weeks. After three, six and twelve months, all test subjects filled in a questionnaire on which they were able to indicate the severity of their symptoms.”
What were the outcomes of the study?
“In May 2016, all of the test subjects had filled in the final questionnaire and I was able to chart the results. We didn’t find any difference in the severity of the symptoms. Looking at both groups as a whole, in the six months the symptoms had reduced on average. The most striking thing was that 43 percent of the test subjects in the standard care group had undergone an operation for their CTS in the study year. In the group that were treated with the Phystrac traction device, only 28 percent had undergone an operation. That means that, in many cases, the Phystrac traction treatment can prevent an operation.”
Are you pleased with the results?
“Yes, certainly, because an operation is an expensive, invasive solution that doesn’t even appear to be effective in all cases. So it’s obviously very positive and good for the patient if a relatively simple Phystrac treatment can prevent an operation. And that he or she can continue to perform daily activities and keep working.
Do you have any advice for people with CTS who aren’t sure what the right treatment method is?
“Primarily, I think it is important not to wait too long to get treatment for CTS. Traction used at an early stage, can reduce the symptoms considerably. If the effect is disappointing, an operation is always still an option. But if you can avoid having an operation, I would definitely try that first.”
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