Mayo Clinic Identifies Cause of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Researchers at Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic believe they have isolated a root cause of carpal tunnel syndrome, the painful, debilitating wrist and hand injury. In a report published in the November issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the research team, led by Dr. Peter Amadio, explains that a “shearing injury” in the tissue that lines the tendons in the carpal tunnel may be responsible for the condition. The findings may lead to earlier diagnoses and more effective treatment.

In patients suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, a buildup of pressure in the carpal tunnel negatively affects circulation in the hand and wrist, which leads to numbness, pain, and tingling. The new study, which was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health, was established in order to ascertain what may cause the pressure buildup in the first place.

“The idea is that if we can identify the sequence of events that lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, we can design more effective interventions to prevent or reverse it,” according to Dr. Amadio.

Evidence points to a shearing injury in the tissue closest to the tendons, essentially in the lining of the tendons, as being the culprit. During the healing process, the scar tissue that accumulates hinders normal tendon movement, compresses the median nerve, restricts the nerve’s blood supply, and causes pressure to build in the carpal tunnel.

Dr. Amadio noted, “Such shearing injuries could be the result of marked or repetitive differential motion of adjacent digits, and may support the hypothesis of a traumatic cause for carpal tunnel syndrome.”

The research team is now addressing the question of what causes the tendon linings to shear and is currently examining the effect of repeated finger movements and the stress and trauma they may cause to the tissue in the hand area.

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