Background: This study quantified the effects of heat, cold, and pressure on the median nerve and transverse carpal ligament in subjects without carpal tunnel syndrome.
Material/Methods: Subjects were individuals ages 20–50 who had no symptoms of carpal tunnel disease. Imaging ultrasound was used to measure the clearance around the median nerve, transverse ligament elasticity, nerve conduction velocity, thickness of the carpal ligament, and area of the median nerve. Pressure was applied to the carpal ligament to assess the effects of increasing pressure on these structures. On 3 separate days, 10 subjects had ThermaCare heat or cold packs applied, for either 60 or 120 minutes for heat or 20 minutes for cold, to the palmer surface of the hand.
Results: Tissue changes were recorded as a response to pressure applied at 0, 5, 10, and 20 N. The size of the nerve and ligaments were not significantly altered by pressure with the hand at room temperature and after cold exposure. After heat, the nerve, ligaments, and tendons showed significantly more elasticity.
Conclusions: Application of cold to the hand may reduce compression of the carpal ligament and nerve.
Laymon, M. S., Petrofsky, J. S., McKivigan, J. M., Lee, H., & Yim, J. (2015). Effect of heat, cold, and pressure on the transverse carpal ligament and median nerve: A pilot study. Medical Science Monitor, 21, 446-451.