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Study finds Link between CTS and Migraine

CTS and MigraineCarpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common condition that causes pain, numbness and tingling sensation in the hand and the fingers (particularly the thumb and index fingers). The condition occurs when the median nerve gets compressed. Generally, these sensations develop gradually and tend to become worse during the night. The general signs and symptoms associated with this condition are hand numbness, tingling sensation, a dull ache in the arm or finger, dryness of the skin in the fingers, thumb weakness and trouble in lifting objects. It is estimated that women are three times more likely to develop this condition than men.

Migraine is a condition that causes intense throbbing or a pulsing sensation in one area of the head. It is commonly accompanied by vomiting, nausea and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Reports from the Migraine Research Foundation suggest that about 36 million men, women, and children in the United States suffer from migraine. These headaches can cause significant pain for hours to days.

A new study reports that people who suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome are more than twice as likely to have migraine. The association also runs in the other direction with migraine patients reporting higher risks of CTS. The current research findings support the ongoing debate over the use of nerve decompression surgery as a treatment for headaches.

The researchers analyzed data from about 26,000 Americans who participated in the cross-sectional “2010 National Health Interview Survey”. Participants were asked questions regarding their disease symptoms and evaluated whether they experienced CTS during the past year or whether they experienced severe headache during the last 3 months. About 16 percent reported they had a migraine within the past three months, and nearly 4 percent said they had carpal tunnel syndrome during the past year.

The direct associations between these two conditions were analyzed by making adjustments for patient-related and health related risk factors. The key findings include

  • People with migraines had a higher chance of having CTS and vice versa.
  • About 34% of respondents with CTS suffered migraine when compared to just 16% of respondents without the syndrome.
  • The chances of suffering headache were 2.6 times higher for those with CTS.
  • CTS were present in about 8% of participants with migraine versus 3% of those without the condition.
  • The chance of having carpal tunnel syndrome was found to be about 2.7% higher for those with the severe headache.

The two conditions shared some common risk factors such as being more common among women, people with diabetes, obese individuals, and smokers.

This study is the first to show a direct association between carpal tunnel syndrome and migraine. Though the nature of the connection is unclear, the researchers suggest that the two conditions may share some common systemic or neurologic risk factor.

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