Link Between Migraines and Carpal Tunnel, Study Finds

A new report in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery-Global Open has found that patients with carpal tunnel syndrome are more than twice as likely to have migraine headaches.

These findings are the result of research by by Dr. Huay-Zong Law and colleagues of University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, who also state that migraine patients also have higher odds of carpal tunnel syndrome  – indicating a correlation between the two.

Dr. Law and colleagues analyzed data from nearly 26,000 American participants who responded to a national health survey, which asked participants if  they had had carpal tunnel syndrome during the past year or “severe headache or migraine” during the past three months.

The research showed that 3.7 percent of respondents carpal tunnel syndrome and 16.3 percent had migraine headache, and associations between the two conditions were analyzed with
adjustment for patient- and health-related risk factors.

Migraine was present in 34 percent of respondents with CTS, compared to 16 percent of those without CTS, indicating a link between the two.

After adjustment for other factors, the odds of having migraine were 2.6 times higher for those with CTS.

Among shared risk factors were female sex, obesity, diabetes, and smoking. Carpal tunnel syndrome was associated with older age and migraine with younger age, and while both appeared to be less present in Asians, Hispanics showed a lower rate of CTS.

Because of the poorly misunderstood nature of these two conditions they can often lead to high costs and disability. CTS is the most common of a group of related conditions called compression neuropathies, with symptoms related to pressure on nerves.

According to Dr. Law, these findings go against the historical interpretation of a migraine as a compression neuropathy, stating: “there is some evidence that migraine headache may be triggered by nerve compression in the head and neck, with some patients responding to nerve decompression by surgical release.”

The new study is the first to show an association between CTS and migraine in that they share some “common systemic or neurologic risk factor,” the researchers write., though the connection remains unclear.