Migraine and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Linked

With migraines more than twice as prevalent in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome as in those without, it is clear there is a link between carpal tunnel syndrome and migraine.

Carpal tunnel syndrome may be linked to migraines, according to findings published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

Researchers from UT Southwestern Medical Center observed data from more than 25,000 respondents of the 2010 National Health Interview Survey in order to calculate nationally representative prevalence of carpal tunnel syndrome and its link to migraines. The data from the National Health Interview Survey is based on the US Census Bureau.

Prior research into this topic has determined that there is a link between the toxin botulinum and/ or nerve decompression surgery which can help alleviate migraines. The researchers determined that the toxin and nerve surgeries do not respond to more traditional treatments.

The researchers identified 952 (3.7 percent) of participants who had carpal tunnel syndrome and 4,212 (16.3 percent) of participants with migraines. About a third of the patients with carpal tunnel syndrome reported having migraines (34 percent). Additionally, 8 percent of patients with migraines reported carpal tunnel syndrome, and 3 percent of migraine patients reported no carpal tunnel syndrome.

“Because carpal tunnel syndrome and migraine headache are so common, this association is relevant to the large number of people who suffer from these conditions,” study co author Douglas Sammer, MD, explained in a press release. “The association of these 2 distinct disease processes is a fascinating connection that needs to be explored further. Although we have theories, at this time we simply don’t know why people with carpal tunnel syndrome are more likely to have migraines, and vice versa. A deeper understanding of how and why this connection exists may lead to earlier diagnosis or even the ability to implement preventive measures.”

Physicians may find it worthwhile to perform peripheral nerve compression exams in the head and neck of patients with migraines, the researchers added. The investigators are still exploring whether migraines are an early warning signs for nerve compression problems like carpal tunnel syndrome. Additionally, they want to examine the hereditary component of carpal tunnel syndrome, which may be a factor.

The authors wrote that the migraines were more common in younger patients, while carpal tunnel syndrome appeared more often in older patients. With these facts, the researchers theorize that migraines sensitize the central nervous system to develop pain signals from later nerve compressions, the press release continued. The authors said migraines are not traditionally classified as nerve compression issues; however, recent evidence suggested that migraine headaches may be triggered by nerve compression in the head and neck regions.