Our objective was to summarize, synthesize, and integrate the evidence evaluating the effectiveness of biophysical agents compared to other conservative treatments, for the management of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).
This was an overview of systematic reviews (SRs). We searched several online databases and obtained SRs relating to managing CTS using biophysical agents. Two independent researchers screened and appraised the quality of the SRs using the A MeaSurement Tool to Assess systematic Reviews-2 appraisal tool. We extracted information related to study characteristics as well as the effectiveness of biophysical agents for CTS, the effect sizes, and between-group significances. We categorized the information based on the type of biophysical agent. We also performed a citation mapping and calculated the corrected covered area index.
We found 17 SRs addressing 12 different biophysical agents. The quality of the SRs was mainly critically low (n = 16) or low (n = 1). The evidence was inconclusive for the effectiveness of Low-level Laser therapy and favorable for the short-term efficacy of non-thermal ultrasound in improving symptom severity, function, pain, global rating of improvement, satisfaction with treatment, and other electrophysiological measures compared to manual therapy or placebo. Evidence was inconclusive for Extracorporeal Shockwave therapy, and favorable for the short-term effectiveness of Shortwave and Microwave Diathermy on pain and hand function. The corrected covered area index was lower than 35% indicating a low overlap of the SRs.
The findings were based on low-quality primary studies, with an unclear or high risk of bias, small sample sizes, and short follow-ups. Therefore, no recommendations can be made for the long-term effectiveness of any biophysical agents. High-quality evidence is needed to support evidence-based recommendations on the use of biophysical agents in the management of CTS.
PROSPERO registration number
CRD42022319002, registered on 17/04/2022