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Migraine Associated With Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Migraine has been associated with several health disorders, and recently researchers linked migraine to carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), a condition to which it had not been linked previously.

Researchers cannot yet explain why the association exists, but believe these disorders may share systemic or neurological factors.

In a study of 26,000 people in the United States, researchers found that patients with carpal tunnel syndrome were more than twice as likely to have migraine, and patients with migraine were more than two times as likely to have CTS. Study authors say that the link between the disorders is noteworthy because it may impact the debate over the use of nerve decompression surgery as a treatment for migraine. The surgery, which some studies have reported improved migraines, is controversial because migraine has not historically been considered a compression disorder.

CTS, which causes pain and numbness in the hands and arms, is the most common of a group of conditions called compression neuropathies, with symptoms related to pressure on nerves. This study, the authors say, was an effort to look at compression disorders in a different way.

The authors also found that the two conditions have some shared risk factors—female gender, obesity, diabetes, and smoking. Additionally, they noted, as migraine tends to occur at younger ages and CTS at older ages, young people with migraine are more likely to develop CTS as they age.

Calling for further study, the authors say greater understanding about the connection may improve diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of CTS.

Arthur Elkind, MD, the President of NHF, noted that this study adds another disorder to the list of those associated with migraine. However, he noted that a statistically verified relationship in a second study would be important. Additionally, he cautioned migraineurs seeking surgery.

“Before patients subject to surgical or other invasive procedures, they should be aware of the long history of ineffective treatment using surgical methods for migraine relief,” he said.

The study appeared in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery—Global Open and was led by Huay-Zong Law, MD, and colleagues of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

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