Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the many so-called cumulative trauma disorders thought by some to be related to the performance of repetitive tasks in the work-place. The cause of this disorder is unknown. We have observed lumbrical muscle incursion into the carpal tunnel during finger flexion. This study was conducted to determine the amount of this incursion in normal wrists. Five cadaver upper limbs were analyzed radiographically with radiopaque markers on the flexor retinaculum and the lumbrical muscle origins in four finger positions: full extension, 50% flexion, 75% flexion, and 100% finger flexion. The lumbrical muscle origins were an average of 7.8 mm distal to the carpal tunnel in full finger extension. They moved an average of 14 mm into the carpal tunnel with 50% finger flexion, 25.5 mm with 75% flexion, and 30 mm with 100% flexion. Abnormal lumbrical muscles have been cited as a possible cause of carpal tunnel syndrome. These findings suggest that lumbrical muscle incursion during finger flexion is a normal occurrence and is a possible cause of work-related carpal tunnel syndrome.
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