Like carpal tunnel, arthritis can affect both the hands and the wrists. In some cases, arthritis may even contribute to the development of carpal tunnel. Still, the two conditions are distinct – but because their symptoms commonly overlap, patients often wonder how to tell which one they are experiencing. In this article, we’ll explore the key differences between carpal tunnel and arthritis.
Carpal Tunnel and Arthritis: What’s the Difference?
Carpal tunnel is a syndrome that originates from repetitive movement or inflammation of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel space, a passageway connecting the hand and wrist. Arthritis, on the other hand, is a condition that develops in one or more joints due to wear and tear, inflammation, repetitive movement and/or joint damage. Depending on the specific type of arthritis an individual has, their symptoms may vary.
To determine whether discomfort in your wrist/hand region is coming from carpal tunnel or arthritis, consider:
- Where are your symptoms concentrated? Carpal tunnel symptoms are typically most prominent in the thumb, forefinger and middle finger, although they may extend to the entire hand/wrist and up the arm to the shoulder and neck. Arthritis typically affects the finger joints and the base of the thumb.
- Do you experience numbness and tingling in your thumb/fingers? This is a textbook sign of carpal tunnel. Wrist arthritis is more commonly associated with tenderness, swelling and stiffness, while both conditions can cause weakness in the affected wrist(s).
- When is your discomfort the worst? Carpal tunnel symptoms typically worsen with activities like writing or typing, as well as in the morning/at night. Arthritis is marked by joint pain with movement and stiffness upon waking up.
As mentioned above, wrist arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome can have similarities and may even occur simultaneously, so it can be tricky to pinpoint which condition is causing your symptoms. If you are bothered by ongoing discomfort and reduced function in your wrists or other joints, an experienced orthopedic physician can perform an examination to differentiate between carpal tunnel and arthritis, allowing them to recommend the most appropriate course of treatment.
Visit Dr. Soffer for Cutting-Edge Orthopedic Care in Reading, PA
Whether you are suffering from carpal tunnel, arthritis or another orthopedic condition, you can count on Dr. Stephen Soffer for compassionate and highly skilled care. Having completed high-level training including a sports medicine fellowship with world-famous orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews, Dr. Soffer is equipped to diagnose and treat the full range of orthopedic issues and injuries.
Specializing in both nonoperative and operative therapies, he individualizes treatment to each particular patient and their unique lifestyle and situation. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Soffer, call our office at 610-375-4949.