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Adrienne Dellwo

Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Linked to Fibromyalgia?

By August 17, 2012

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Research Brief

A new study suggests that carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) may be more frequent that thought in fibromyalgia, and that fibromyalgia symptoms may mask CTS.

CTS involves symptoms including:

  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Tingling & burning
  • Weakness

All of those are also symptoms of fibromyalgia. (However, the types of weakness experienced are different.)

Researchers say testing uncovered CTS in a disproportionately high number of people with fibromyalgia, leading them to conclude that it's under diagnosed, likely because of the similarity of symptoms.

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My Perspective

I'm glad researchers are looking into the possible connection between these two conditions. Because CTS involves nerve damage, it seems like it could be a possible risk factor for causing hypersensitivity in the central nervous system, which is central to fibromyalgia. I can also see how CTS symptoms could be overlooked because of fibromyalgia.

I had CTS in college, long before fibromyalgia entered my life. However, I do frequently wonder if arm and hand pain, numbness and weakness are CTS raising its head. On clumsy days, when I drop everything I pick up, it reminds me of the days when empty glasses would fall through my grasp and I didn't have the finger strength to push buttons on the remote.

If you have burning, tingling, numbness or other odd nerve sensations (called paresthesias) in your hands along with pain, and especially if it's worse at night, talk to your doctor. The good news is that many cases of CTS can be effectively treated. The bad news is that, left untreated, it can cause degeneration in your arms that may lead to permanent disability.

For me, physical and occupational therapy and wearing braces a lot got me back to functional and with only minor pain. And remember, quieting down other sources of pain can help ease your fibromyalgia symptoms, too.

Do you have a lot of pain in your arms? What about paresthesias? Do you or have you had CTS? Leave your comments below!


Photo A.D.A.M.

August 17, 2012 at 10:12 am
(1) deborah briggs says:

I had carpel tunnell in both hands, prior to suffering with Fibromyalgia – have at times expressed the pain of fms is like carpel tunnell all over the body………

August 17, 2012 at 10:12 am
(2) deborah briggs says:

I had carpel tunnell in both hands, prior to suffering with Fibromyalgia – have at times expressed the pain of fms is like carpel tunnell all over the body………

August 17, 2012 at 10:45 am
(3) Kay says:

I’ve had carpal tunnel for years – the result of 30 years of typing, but never thought about it being related to the fibro/post polio issues. Right now (as we transition to cooler, wet weather) it’s kicking up quite badly. Thanks for point this out.

August 17, 2012 at 3:38 pm
(4) sissy says:

I don’t believe it’s true carpal tunnel. I have the pain their and it is unbearable at times. But it didn’t show up on the nerve tests. My podiatrist did tell me I had tarsal tunnel and my feet and ankles hurt so badly that I had the surgery out of desperation for relief. Guess what? It didn’t help my symptoms at all.

August 17, 2012 at 4:06 pm
(5) Kat Brown says:

I had carpel tunnel syndrome when I was pregnant with my daughter but now I’ve had problems occasionally on the opposite side of my hands. Has anyone else had that problem? I’ve also had pain on the outside of my feet.

August 17, 2012 at 4:18 pm
(6) Lady Di says:

Having frequent visits with 2 orthopedic surgeons over the past 3 decades I have often talked to them both about connections of FMS to carpal tunnel and trigger finger from information from this web site and comments made by others.
Both surgeons tell me that there is no connection and they do thousands of surgeries for both yearly. They both tell me that they see more people without FMS than with FMS and it is related to the type of stress and repetitive movement that occurs.
In fact they both tell me that trigger finger is more common in people with diabetes.
Many of the studies that are done and referred to are very small studies without specific criteria to base their findings on. We must be careful not to inadvertently try to connect things to FMS rather than determining the true root cause and dealing with that.
Living with FMS is not an easy journey but it concerns me when I read articles and comments that make associations to FMS that are not based in reputable findings. I caution people not to make assumptions about what may or may not be a risk factor, a cause or a connection to FMS. It is too easy to become caught up in the cycle of everything is connected to FMS and miss the root cause of a problem.
CTS is easily corrected by surgery as is trigger finger.

August 17, 2012 at 5:23 pm
(7) JudyP says:

I had CTS in both hands. The surgery (6 weeks apart) was easy, easy recovery, and much relief from symptoms. Then had shoulder surgery for a similar issue (impingement). Same thing: easy surgery and recovery, and terrific relief (took out my neck pain too, still 2 months later).

I see the doc next week for my legs and feet. (I know part of my leg pain is nerve entrapment, but the surgeries are not as easy, and typically less successful, so I don’t think it would be an easy sell or even ideal anyway. ) I wish there was an easy fix for my low back pain. Basically, I feel like I’ve eliminated the top half of my body from the pain cycle.

August 17, 2012 at 5:23 pm
(8) deborah says:

I have CT in both hands as well as RA. Now my thumbs are turning in under my hand and it is hard to do anything without great pain and dropping things constantly which ends up with scalds and hurt feet. It is just one more hell of FMS. Without insurance I can get very little help from my doctor who says I need specialists. Such a shame that many of us have to suffer like this because of lack of being able to afford health insurance. :-(

August 17, 2012 at 5:47 pm
(9) Elize Atkinson says:

I get the same pain in my right arm. But 28 years ago I had shingels and still today suffer from the pain when the weather is cold and wet. I even had an operation the same as for carpal tunnel but with no effect. My fms symptoms started 30 years ago but only diagnosed 14 years ago. I believe in the USA medication is available to take for my problem but I stay in South Africa and it is not available in this country.

August 17, 2012 at 9:56 pm
(10) Karen K says:

I was first diagnosed with Fibro last Fall, then went on to have the EMG test on my arms this past Spring..Both of my hands have carpal tunnel & surgery is required per the doctor who gave me the test..My Physician’s Assistant in Neurology has me on 600mg of Gabapentin & I’ve had 2 cortisone shots in both wrists within 2 1/2 months…I’m going to see her again on Tuesday & insist on having the surgery…Those shots hurt like H$LL & I can’t see living the rest of my life like this..Enough is going on!!

August 18, 2012 at 5:42 am
(11) Hotlyn says:

Have been diagnosed with pretty severe FM for over 20 years. Have tried everything and seen everyone!
After seeing Pain specialist, who has changed and tweaked tabs, pain now 2/3 from 15/10 , and massage every week as I have done for past 15 years.
Things are pretty ok at present. Which is just as well, as this year I have been diagnosed with Breast Cancer, mastectomy and chemotherapy afterwards , bilatereral knee replacements as extremely high doses of cortisone in chemotherapy infusion caused me to get osteo necrosis ( bone death ) which killed bone in both knees and caused me to fall constantly with no warnng due to knee instability and
THEN well what else could go wrong… oh thats right carpel tunnel in both hands. One last year , one six weeks ago , both were successful. Have had no problems . Really glad I had them done … as pain in hands became really painful, and wearing the wrist brace was not really helping anymore.
So just wanted to say if you need that op and can get it done, do so. Can drive again ( had to stop, couldn’t hold steering wheel) so again life is looking up.. Regards Lynne

August 18, 2012 at 8:10 am
(12) Cheryl says:

To Deborah…My thumb’s were turning in under my hands too. I was having a real hard time just holding a fork to eat..kept dropping it. I started takeing Magnesium supplements 500mg. once a day about 8 months ago and haven’t had the problem since!!!! I also had a twitch under my eye for about 3 yr’s and that is gone too. Try it …it won’t hurt and it is inexspensive. Good Luck

To Kat….The problem that you are having on the other side of your hand is caused by the nerve in you’re elbow. It’s like carple but affect’s a different area in your hand. I’m not a doctor but my sister, who is an RN, is being treated for both problems right now. Cortisone shot’s work sometimes. They worked for her for about 10 yrs. but now she has to have surgery. She doesn’t have FM or any other health problems.

August 18, 2012 at 12:37 pm
(13) Carie says:

Was diagnosed w/bilateral CTS approx 1995 after years of keyboarding. Had surg on the RT in 2000 worked great, microscopically performed, very small incisions. However, symptoms are returning. All my hobbies require repetitive hand movements. Compression gloves help alot especially in winter. Never had left CTS surg, increasingly probs. Tired of dropping everything. Have had fibro since high school following an auto accident 1973, but was not diagnosed until 2000.Neck fusion in 2001 and back fusion in 2002. Both Neck and back fusions helped with pain and all was well for about 2-3 yrs following each, but now have returning symptoms and extreme limitations. On Disability for 10+ yrs. Live on Tramadol, Flexeril and generic ambien. Magnesium has helped with depression and muscle relaxation. 100% Black cherry extract has helped immensely with pain. Too many years of cortizone, NSAIDS caused GI bleeds and GERD…cant take them. Was told any repetitive hand type movements will cause CTS to return. Common in typists, assembly line workers, carpenters, gardeners, etc.. I’d do the CTS surg again if I could

August 20, 2012 at 2:04 pm
(14) Jim Luzadder says:

I hit the jackpot when I discovered Robert Schwartz, M.D. in Greenville, SC. I’m glad that I had insurance! He is a Board Certified Physiatrist and is a Fellow of vascular medicine. He tested me for everything! He discovered that I had carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands. He treated me with the wrist/hand restraints that are common tx for carpal. But he also evaluated my FMS, M.E., Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (which many of you have and don’t know it. It is the result of injury/trauma), multiple vascular issues, and he gave me a number of exercizes for not only my hands & wrists, but for other parts of my body. He has limited me to not more than 10 pounds of lifting, and when I eceed that I pay a heavy price. I recommend his website and that you explore CRPS online and with your doctor. It has quite a few symptoms that are similar to FMS.

August 23, 2012 at 4:59 pm
(15) Brenda H says:

This is very interesting! I have both FMS & CFS. I got sick in ’03 & diagnosed in ’06 at Mayo. I have also had CTS in both hands. I just thought it was due to all the computer work that I did over the years. I have since had surgery on both wrists. Unfortunately, the surgery on my left was botched and I am now left with no feeling from my palm to the tip of my thumb. I wonder now if my CTS was from computer work or Fibro. wish I knew!

August 24, 2012 at 10:09 pm
(16) June says:

I read with interest the comments of people with FMS and CarpalTunnel. I had very sucessful surgery on both hands. I had believed it was from computer related work that I had dome for many years. I am very happy with the results although I have had FM for many years and was forced to quite working about 12 years ago. I was diagnosed in 1995 but my Doctor didn’t believe in it and I did not get any kind of treatnent for it, other then Chiropractic and my husband often massaged my arms and shoulders. I had a frozen shoulder for 3 1/2 years. It took 18 months of physio therapy to get it unfrozen. It was very painful and sensitive to pressure, such as laying on that side in bed. It is now totally fine. I finally found a Doctor who was willing to help me with pain control with meds and other modalities. None-the–less as it was years before I got definitive help, I suffer with very much pain. I now have osteoarthritis in hips and knees and that makes the pain in my legs almost unbearable at times. It helps to hear about the experiences of others with this terrible condition, and cuopled with other conditions make it even more dificult. Also like to learn about what others do or have done to help themselves to deal with these terrible conditions.

November 19, 2012 at 5:46 pm
(17) akram says:

i had carpel tune surgery on my both hand but again i have sever pain numbness,tingling,and weakness.i really feel useless i cannot do anything i always need help from everyone.
and also i diagnose with fibromyalgia 6 years ago.


December 28, 2012 at 11:53 am
(18) psychgirl says:

I had carpal tunnel release surgery after tolerating CTS for over a year-numbness, shooting pains, dropping things-had the EMG testing and positive for CTS-my PCP recommend the CTR surgery-non-invasive by an MD noted for developing this procedure in Pittsburgh-amazing results-he promised no pain, numbness, etc and he was right-its gone! The best part-I drove home myself after the OP surgery and returned to work keyboarding the next Tuesday after the Friday surgery. The only side effect was temporary soreness. Look online at the photos of untreated carpal tunnel-withered fingers-looks like rheumatoid arthritis–caused by nerve deterioration. If you test positive for CTS, you must have the surgery, both to relieve the pain AND to avoid further deterioration and use of your hands! Check out Tri-State Orthopedics/Dr. Steven Kann online.

February 6, 2013 at 11:20 am
(19) Mrs. R says:

ok i have been diagnosed with carpell turnnel but i go in the next 2 weeks to do the shock test on my nerves.. I am now noticing that i am having pain and numbness in my back all the way to my feet and they are going to sleep. Has this happened to anyone?? i dont want to call my dr back I dont usually complain but it is really starting to hurt please help me thanks

March 12, 2013 at 11:11 am
(20) L. K says:


June 14, 2013 at 7:54 pm
(21) Gail C says:

I have Fibro and had worked at jobs my entirety of my working yrs at jobs with alot of continuous wrist movements.My thumbs hurt but not my wrists. It makes sense that the CT instigates more Fibro pain. Any other pain I have Instigates my Fibro pain to flare up.

February 16, 2014 at 8:37 am
(22) Angel says:

I had ct surgery in both hands a yr & 1/2 ago. I’m having pain and numbness again. And having alot of pain all over my body now, joints, lower back, and achey muscles constantly. My Dr says it’s arthritis,,, I’m not sure. The only thing that helps is heat, and pain med. I really don’t want to have to depend on pain pills. I’m 49yrs old.

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