Fibromyalgia and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

Fibromyalgia is typically characterized by widespread pain, fatigue, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome and myriads of other debilitating symptoms that make life difficult for patients.

The symptoms vary from person to person and apart from pain and fatigue symptoms there is notably inability to get refreshing sleep, waking up tired and stiff and developing cognitive disturbances including lack of concentration and clumsiness, dizziness etc.

Patients tend to be sensitive to changes in the weather, to bright lights, noise etc. Fibromyalgia syndrome is a chronic and long term condition that has no cure. About 10 million people are currently diagnosed with this disorder. Although 9 out of 10 people diagnosed are women, men also get this disorder.

Fibromyalgia and carpal tunnel syndrome

Studies have shown that there is a high prevalence of carpal tunnel syndrome in patients with fibromyalgia. For one, both conditions are common in middle aged and older women. Their individual prevalence in the population is 2% and 9.2%, respectively.

The diagnosis of fibromyalgia is based on criteria suggested in 2010 by the American College of Rheumatology.

Carpal tunnel syndrome typically includes a history of numbness, loss of sensation or pain in the fingers that are connected to the median nerve at the wrist. The narrowing of the tunnel in the wrist where the nerve passes is the main pathology associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.

Studies and surveys have shown that fibromyalgia is present in nearly a quarter (22.6%) of patients with carpal tunnel syndrome. If only the women patients with carpal tunnel syndrome are considered, nearly 50% have fibromyalgia as well.

Both conditions occur simultaneously in nearly 10% of all patients. The odds ratio for patients with any one of the conditions of showing the other one is around 2.4.

Both fibromyalgia and carpal tunnel syndrome leads to pain and numbness associated with a subjective sensation of swelling in the hands especially in the mornings.

Reviewed by , BA Hons (Cantab)

Further Reading

Last Updated: Jul 31, 2013

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