A new medical study suggests that carpal tunnel syndrome may be genetic, rather than cause by repetitive use.

“The idea that CTS is related specifically to typing or overuse of the hands in general is pervasive in modern society,” said David Ring, MD, senior author of the study, to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. The findings provide important data to human resources directors and could influence treatment options being developed in the medical and pharmaceutical industries.

“It is commonly accepted as true, but according to the scientific evidence, the link between hand use and carpal tunnel syndrome is overstated and may be inaccurate. In contrast, there is strong evidence for an inherent, genetic risk for CTS. CTS sufferers are most likely innocent bystanders and should not be blamed for their illness,” Ring said.

Patients with CTS experience hand numbness, and eventually develop weakness and atrophy of some of the small hand muscles that control the thumb.

Ring said that carpal tunnel syndrome remains poorly understood. Pressure in the carpal tunnel (a tunnel formed by the small wrist, or carpal, bones and the transverse carpal ligament) is involved in the pathophysiology, and release of the pressure by dividing the transverse carpal ligament stops the process. The cause of the increased pressure, however, remains unknown in the vast majority of patients.

“This application of stringent science to theories of causation may affect claims of disability, workers compensation, and personal injury, Ring said. “It should also influence the information that physicians are providing their patients about carpal tunnel syndrome.”