Morphological and positional changes of the carpal arch and median nerve during wrist compression

Tamara L. Marquardt, Joseph N. Gabra, Zong Ming Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Abstract Background The carpal tunnel is a fibro-osseous structure containing the median nerve and flexor tendons. Its cross-sectional area has been shown to increase during compressive force application to the carpal bones in modeling and in vitro studies. The purpose of this study was to investigate the morphological and positional changes of the carpal arch and median nerve while in vivo compressive force was applied in the radioulnar direction across the wrist. Methods Ultrasound images of the carpal tunnel and its contents were captured for 11 healthy, female volunteers at the distal tunnel level prior to force application and during force application of 10 and 20 N. Findings With applied force, the carpal arch width significantly decreased, while the carpal arch height and area significantly increased (P < 0.001). The median nerve shape became more rounded as the compressive force magnitude increased, reflected by decreases in the nerve's flattening ratio and increases in its circularity (P < 0.001). The applied force also resulted in nerve displacement in the radial-volar direction. Interpretation This study demonstrates that noninvasively applying radioulnar compressive force across the wrist may potentially provide relief of median nerve compression to patients suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3904
Pages (from-to)248-253
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Biomechanics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Compression
  • Force
  • Median nerve
  • Wrist

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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