Background: Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common disorder for which several surgical treatment options are available. However, there is no consensus on the most effective method of treatment. The object of this systematic review is to compare the efficacy of the various surgical techniques in relieving the symptoms of CTS and promoting return to work and/or activities of daily living. Methods: Computer-aided searches of Medline, EMBASE and the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register were conducted, together with reference checking. A rating system, based on the number of studies and their methodological quality and findings, was used to determine the strength of the available evidence for the efficacy of the treatment. Results: Fourteen studies were included in the review. None of the alternatives to standard open carpal tunnel release (OCTR) seems to offer better relief of symptoms. There is conflicting evidence about whether endoscopic carpal tunnel release results in earlier return to work and/or activities of daily living. Conclusion: Standard OCTR is still the preferred method of treatment for CTS. It is just as effective as the alternatives, but is technically less demanding, so incurs a lower risk of complications and of added costs.