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Carpal tunnel syndrome, migraine linked

Association found between carpal tunnel syndrome and migraine

Not only are migraine sufferers are more likely to have carpal tunnel syndrome, but the reverse also appears to be true, new research suggests.


The study, published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery -- Global Open, is the first to find an association between migraine and carpal tunnel syndrome, but it is unclear exactly how the two are connected. The researchers suggest the two may share a "common systemic or neurologic risk factor."

Researchers analyzed data from 25,880 Americans who participated in the cross-sectional 2010 National Health Interview Survey. They found that 34 percent of people with carpal tunnel syndrome also had migraines, compared to 16 percent of people without carpal tunnel syndrome.

While carpal tunnel syndrome was associated with older age, migraine was associated with younger age. Both were associated with obesity, diabetes, and smoking, and were more prevalent in women than men. Carpal tunnel syndrome was less common in Hispanics and Asians, and migraine was less common in Asians.

Eight percent of people with migraine also had carpal tunnel syndrome, compared to three percent of people without migraine. After adjusting for other factors, the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome was 2.7 times higher among migraine sufferers.

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According to the Migraine Research Foundation, 36 million men, women, and children in the United States suffer from migraines. About 18 percent of American women, 6 percent of men, and 10 percent of school-aged children suffer from migraine. If one parent suffers from migraine, there is a 40 percent chance a child will suffer from it as well. If both parents suffer from migraine, the risk jumps to 90 percent. Migraine ranks in the top 20 of the world's most disabling medical illnesses, and more than 90 percent of sufferers are unable to work or function normally during an episode.

Women are three times more likely than men to develop carpal tunnel syndrome, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist, and symptoms include hand numbness or weakness. Migraines are recurrent throbbing headaches that usually affect one side of the head and are often accompanied by nausea, tingling in the arms and legs, and an increased sensitivity to light and sound.

A 2013 study published in the journal PLoS One found that there are structural changes in the arteries of the brain that are more common among people who experience migraine headaches.

"People with migraine actually have differences in the structure of their blood vessels - this is something you are born with," said lead author, Brett Cucchiara, MD, associate professor of neurology at Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

"These differences seem to be associated with changes in blood flow in the brain, and it's possible that these changes may trigger migraine, which may explain why some people, for instance, notice that dehydration triggers their headaches."