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New Study Links Migraine to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel SyndromeCarpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a common hand and arm condition characterized by numbness, pain or tingling sensation caused by compression of median nerve in the wrist. It usually affects the thumb, index finger and middle finger. Migraines are recurring headaches that often involve throbbing pain, sensitivity to light and sound, nausea and vomiting. The National Headache Foundation recently reported on a new study that found a link between these medical conditions.

Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas suggest that CTS increases the risk of migraine and also that migraines can increase the odds of CTS. Though they could not explain the exact reason for this association, they say that the conditions may share systemic or neurologic risk factors. Their report was published in the March 23, 2015 issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery – Global Open.

The study was based on data from about 26,000 Americans who participated in a health survey. Among other things, the participants were asked whether they had CTS during the past year or severe headache or migraine over the past three months. It was found that about 16.3 percent of respondents had migraine and 3.7 percent had CTS. Analysis of the data revealed that having migraine increased the risk for CTS and vice versa. After adjusting for risk factors, it was found that:

  • The risk of migraine was 2.6 times higher in people with carpal tunnel syndrome
  • More than twice as many people with migraines had carpal tunnel syndrome – 8 percent versus 3 percent of those without migraines

They researchers also found some shared risk factors for these two conditions: female gender, obesity, diabetes and cigarette smoking. Both conditions were less prevalent among Asians, and CTS was less common in Hispanics.

The report also notes that carpal tunnel syndrome was associated with older age and migraine with younger age. Based on this, the authors say that further research should focus on determining if migraine headache could be an early sign of a higher chance of developing CTS in the future. This, they say, could help earlier diagnosis and treatment of CTS, or even prevention of the condition by addressing the risk factors.

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