Adaptation of the transverse carpal ligament associated with repetitive hand use in pianists

Christiane Mhanna, Tamara L. Marquardt, Zong Ming Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The transverse carpal ligament (TCL) plays a critical role in carpal tunnel biomechanics through interactions with its surrounding tissues. The purpose of this study was to investigate the in vivo adaptations of the TCL's mechanical properties in response to repetitive hand use in pianists using acoustic radiation force impulse (ARFI) imaging. It was hypothesized that pianists, in comparison to non-pianists, would have a stiffer TCL as indicated by an increased acoustic shear wave velocity (SWV). ARFI imagining was performed for 10 female pianists and 10 female non-pianists. The median SWV values of the TCL were determined for the entire TCL, as well as for its radial and ulnar portions, rTCL and uTCL, respectively. The TCL SWV was significantly increased in pianists relative to non-pianists (p < 0.05). Additionally, the increased SWV was location dependent for both pianist and non-pianist groups (p < 0.05), with the rTCL having a significantly greater SWV than the uTCL. Between groups, the rTCL SWV of pianists was 22.2%greater than that of the non-pianists (p < 0.001). This localized increase of TCL SWV, i.e. stiffening, may be primarily attributable to focal biomechanical interactions that occur at the radial TCL aspect where the thenar muscles are anchored. Progressive stiffening of the TCL may become constraining to the carpal tunnel, leading to median nerve compression in the tunnel. TCL maladaptation helps explain why populations who repeatedly use their hands are at an increased risk of developing musculoskeletal pathologies, e.g. carpal tunnel syndrome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0150174
JournalPloS one
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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