An intriguing new study is the first to make a connection between carpal tunnel syndrome and migraine headaches
Findings from a new study correlate the painful wrist condition known as carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) with migraine headaches in some people. The Hand Center at Santa Rosa Orthopaedics specializes in treating CTS and offers an overview of symptoms and treatments.

by Dr. Kai-Uwe Mazur and Dr. Mintalucci

According to research conducted by Dr. Huay-Zong Law of University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas some migraine patients have an increased likelihood of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Both CTS and migraine headache apparently also have some shared risk factors — particularly consistent for women, in incidents of obesity, people with a history of diabetes and/or smoking. Both conditions were reported to be less common in Asians, and CTS in particular was less common in Hispanics.

This is the first study to demonstrate an association between CTS and migraines although the nature of the connection remains unclear. The two conditions may share some “common systemic or neurologic risk factor,” say the researchers. They also recommended further studies to help clarify whether migraine headaches may be an early indicator of patients who are more likely to develop CTS at some time in the future. If such a connection is pinpointed this “would allow for earlier diagnosis and treatment, or even prevention, of CTS by modification of risk factors,” they concluded.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – symptoms

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the tissues surrounding the tendons in the wrist swell and put pressure on the (median) nerve. The swelling of these tissues then causes a narrowing of the confined space of the carpal tunnel, and over time puts pressure on the nerve causing pain and a variety of symptoms. Surrounded by bones and ligaments, the carpal tunnel is a constricted tube-like structure located on the palm side of the wrist. This tube or tunnel protects the main nerve of the hand and the tendons that make it possible to bend fingers.

At first glance, linking migraines with CTS might seem like a stretch, but when you consider the wide variety of known contributors to the condition – connecting the dots begins to make some sense. Some known contribution factors include;

• wrist injury that results in swelling
• overactive pituitary gland
• hypothyroidism
• rheumatoid arthritis
• joint issues
• stress
• repetitive use of vibrating hand tools
• fluid retention
• cysts or tumors

It is also believed that genetics has something to do with in the onset Carpal Tunnel Syndrome due to the incidence of naturally smaller carpal tunnels in some people, a trait that can run in families. Although widely thought to be caused by minute repetitive motions, no such link to CTS has been established, although repetitive motion is well known to cause other conditions such as bursitis or tendonitis both of which can also result in pain in the same area.

Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome may include;

• tingling
• burning, or numbness in the fingers
• loss of strength in the hands
• loss of dexterity
• locked joints
• swelling
• inflammation and pain

Pressure on of the median nerve eventually causes the numbness, tingling and characteristic hand weakness that is so often reported in carpal tunnel syndrome patients.

Treating CTS

817327_73441387In order to avoid permanent damage to the median nerve early diagnosis and treatment is extremely important. Commonly prescribed treatments include; resting the wrist for a minimum of two weeks while avoiding all activities that might exacerbate the condition. The wrist is typically immobilized in a splint to avoid more damage and cool packs are recommended to diminish incidents of swelling.

A range of drugs from over the counter pain relievers to diuretics and cortisteroids may be prescribed for pain and swelling. Vitamin B6 supplements have also been shown to ease the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in some people. After symptoms abate on-going treatment is likely to include stretching and strengthening the affected arm. Fortunately, in most circumstances of carpal tunnel syndrome proper treatment usually can relieve the tingling and numbness and restore wrist and hand function.

The Hand Center

The Hand Center led by Kai-Uwe Mazur, M.D., and Dominic J. Mintalucci, M.D. provides state-of-the-art medical care in a friendly and compassionate environment using a team treatment model that focuses on diagnostics and meticulous surgical details, in addition to carefully monitored post-surgical rehabilitation and recovery. The Hand Center’s surgeons and certified hand therapists consult together on all cases, including carpal tunnel syndrome, to assure quality of care and deliver successful results for patients. To learn more visit our website or all 707-546-1922.
Resources: Wolters Kluwer Health: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins. “Association between migraine, carpal tunnel syndrome found.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 March 2015.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome