Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Body Type

Is there a relationship between carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) and body mass index (BMI)? A 1994 study focused on 949 patients who presented with right arm numbness and tingling. In the study, the patients underwent electromyography and nerve conduction velocity (EMG/NCV)—the “gold standard” of tests to diagnose nerve injuries in conditions such as CTS.

Researchers then sub-divided the group by age (three groups: younger than 45; between 45 and 64; and 65 or older), body size (defined by BMI), and gender. Investigators compared those who were obese (BMI more than 29) to the other groups: slender - BMI less than 20; normal - BMI 20-25; heavy - BMI 25-29; vs. obese - BMI greater than 29.

The findings revealed that of the 261 patients diagnosed with CTS, only 16% were slender compared with 39% who were obese. This indicates that those with obese body types are 2.5 times more likely to develop CTS than slender individuals. Regarding gender, 43% of obese women had CTS compared to 32% of obese males, and 21% of slender women had CTS compared to 0% of slender males. The mean age for the CTS patients was higher at 48.1 years of age (vs. 44.7 years), with the peak occurrences in the 45-65 year old group (41%), followed by those 65 years or older (26%), with the rate in those younger than 45 years old group at 21%.

This study is consistent with previously identified risk factors for developing CTS: obesity, older age, and being female. But are there additional “body type” risk factors?

It turns out that other studies have found that people with square-shaped wrists, short/wider palms (with shorter third fingers), and those with poor upper back strength all have a higher risk for developing CTS.

We’ve looked at other well-known risk factors previously such as diabetes, arthritis, pregnancy, birth control pill use, occupation type, smoking, alcohol abuse, poor nutrition, high LDLs (“bad” cholesterol), and genetic factors. Doctors of chiropractic are trained to diagnose and treat CTS, and ALL studies recommend EARLY treatment, so DON’T WAIT!