Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Related to Migraines and Fibromyalgia

Recently, there have been studies associating carpal tunnel syndrome to other conditions, particularly migraines and fibromyalgia. In all three of these conditions, gender made a difference. Women are three times more likely than men to develop carpal tunnel syndrome, perhaps because the carpal tunnel itself may be smaller in women than in men. Both migraine headaches and fibromyalgia are also more common in women than in men. Read below to find out more about the relationships between these conditions… 

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Migraines

Patients with carpal tunnel syndrome are more than twice as likely to have migraine headaches, reports a study in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery—Global Open, a companion journal to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons’ flagship publication, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

According to research by Dr. Huay-Zong Law and colleagues of University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, the association also runs in the other direction, with migraine patients having higher odds of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Patients with carpal tunnel syndrome have symptoms, such as hand numbness and weakness, resulting from pressure on the median nerve in the wrist. Carpal tunnel syndrome is the most common of a group of related conditions called compression neuropathies, with symptoms related to pressure on nerves.

In this study, the researchers analyzed data from nearly 26,000 Americans responding to a national health survey. Participants were asked a number of questions and whether they had carpal tunnel syndrome during the past year or “severe headaches or migraines” during the past three months. Medication usage was also a relevant part.

Based on these definitions, 3.7 percent of respondents had carpal tunnel syndrome and 16.3 percent had migraine headaches. Associations between these two conditions were analyzed, with adjustment for patient- and health-related risk factors. The results suggested that people with migraine headaches were more likely to have carpal tunnel syndrome and vice versa.

Migraine incidence was present in 34 percent of respondents with carpal tunnel syndrome compared to 16 percent of those without carpal tunnel syndrome. After adjustment for other factors, the odds of having migraines were 2.6 times higher for those with carpal tunnel syndrome. On adjusted analysis, the odds of having carpal tunnel syndrome were about 2.7 times higher for those with migraines.

This 2015 study was the first to show an association between carpal tunnel syndrome and migraines. The nature of the connection remains unclear. The two conditions may share some “common systemic or neurologic risk factor,” the researchers write.

Noting that migraine incidence tends to occur at younger ages and carpal tunnel syndrome at older ages, Dr. Law and co-authors call for further studies to determine whether migraine headaches may be an “early indicator” of patients who are more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome in the future. If so, such a connection “would allow for earlier diagnosis and treatment, or even prevention, of carpal tunnel syndrome by modification of risk factors,” they conclude. 

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Fibromyalgia

In a 2013 study, research found that people with fibromyalgia are four to six times more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome compared to the general population.

There is not an exact reason as to why there is an association between fibromyalgia and an increased risk for carpal tunnel syndrome, but some experts believe it is due to the fact that fibromyalgia patients are already more sensitive to pain. Therefore, less pressure on the median nerve is required for a patient with fibromyalgia to notice it.

There is a trend of under-diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome in fibromyalgia patients due to the fact that symptoms in both conditions are quite similar. Both conditions can cause pain, numbness, tingling, burning and weakness. It’s important to recognize when the pain occurs in these conditions. That will help patients and their doctors to decipher between fibromyalgia pain and carpal tunnel syndrome pain. If patients notice the pain worsens at night that is a factor more typical of carpal tunnel syndrome and one that varies from fibromyalgia.


Speaking with your doctor can help you find a method of treatment. At The Center for Musculoskeletal Disorders, we do a thorough evaluation of your history and symptoms for conditions, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. This allows us to customize your diagnosis and implement the most effective and desirable remedies. Contact us today for a consultation.