Both carpal tunnel and arthritis are common causes of hand and wrist pain. Both may cause pain and stiffness. Hand numbness and pain may worsen over time, wax and wane, affect both sides or only one, and may also be related to a particular activity such as typing. While only a qualified physician can determine if you have carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, or another underlying cause, there are several symptoms that can help to determine what may be causing your hand related issues.
Major Differences Between Carpal Tunnel and Arthritis
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a disorder of the hand and wrist caused by the compression of the median nerve, which runs along a narrow space (or tunnel) from your elbow to your wrist, between the bones and connective tissues. The major symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include numbness and tingling in your hands, difficulty opening and closing your hand(s), weakness in your hands, and hand pain.
And, if the pain and numbness in your hand or arm comes on suddenly, spreads to your jaw, neck or back, is accompanied by dizziness, sweating, nausea or vomiting, feelings of dread or anxiety, a severe headache, confusion, chest or back pain or the like, you should seek immediate emergency medical care by calling 911 or going to the nearest hospital rather than waiting for an appointment at your doctor – as this can indicate a heart attack or stroke.
You should also be aware that other disorders and conditions such as diabetes, peripheral nerve damage, alcohol related disorders, ganglion cysts, cervical spondylosis (wear and tear on the spinal disks), multiple sclerosis, vasculitis, strokes and other problems can also cause these symptoms.
Typically, arthritis does present with some overlapping symptoms, however with arthritis, the joints tend to become warmer, red, swollen, and stiff. In arthritis, the joints tend to loosen as the day goes on and inflammation is usually worse in the morning. Whereas in the case of carpal tunnel syndrome, the symptoms usually worsen over the course of a day in which you are using your hands in repetitive movements like typing on a keyboard, often making it harder to hold objects or use your hands.
- Pain and stiffness in the morning that may decrease as the day goes on
- Fatigue, weight loss, and fever
- Nodules, or firm bumps under the skin of your arms
- Swelling, redness and warmth around the affected joints
Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Include
- Tingling and numbness of the fingers or hand
- Hand weakness or difficulty gripping objects
- The sensation of burning or tingling may become worse when you are holding a steering wheel or phone, or holding up a newspaper or book
- You may tend to shake your hands or arms to relieve your symptoms, which may worsen over time and become constant
Both arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome need to be diagnosed and treated by a doctor. Your physician can advise you as to the appropriate treatment, which may include medications, injections, therapy, bracing, or surgery. If you or a loved one is concerned about carpal tunnel or arthritis, please call Endeavor Physical Therapy and Wellness at (512) 284-7192 today, or request an appointment online.