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J Orthop Res. 2013 Oct;31(10):1533-9. doi: 10.1002/jor.22391. Epub 2013 Jun 1.

Repetitive differential finger motion increases shear strain between the flexor tendon and subsynovial connective tissue.

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Occupational Biomechanics Laboratory, Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University, 1280 Main Street, West Hamilton, ON, Canada, L8S 4K1.


Non-inflammatory fibrosis and thickening of the subsynovial connective tissue (SSCT) are characteristic in carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) patients. These pathological changes have been linked to repetitive hand tasks that create shear forces between the flexor tendons and SSCT. We measured the relative motion of the flexor digitorum superficialis tendon and SSCT during two repetitive finger tasks using color Doppler ultrasound. Twelve participants performed flexion-extension cycles for 30 min with the long finger alone (differential movement) and with all four fingers together (concurrent movement). Shear strain index (SSI, a relative measure of excursion in flexion and extension) and maximum velocity ratio (MVR, the ratio of SSCT versus tendon during flexion and extension) were used to represent shear. A linear effect of exertion time was significant and corresponded with larger tendon shear in differential motion. The flexion SSI increased 20.4% from the first to the 30th minute, while MVR decreased 8.9% in flexion and 8.7% in extension. No significant changes were found during concurrent motion. These results suggest that exposure to repetitive differential finger tasks may increase the risk of shear injury in the carpal tunnel.


carpal tunnel; color Doppler ultrasound; differential finger motion; flexor tendon; subsynovial connective tissue

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