Carpal Tunnel Versus Arthritis: What's The Difference?

Carpal tunnel and arthritis are two conditions that can cause pain, stiffness, and numbness in the hands. Both conditions can make it difficult to do everyday tasks such as cooking, typing, and driving. So, what's the difference between carpal tunnel and arthritis? Carpal tunnel is a condition that affects the hand and wrist. The carpal tunnel is a small space in the wrist where tendons and ligaments pass through. The median nerve, which controls movement and feeling in the thumb and first three fingers, also passes through this space. When the tissues surrounding the carpal tunnel become swollen or inflamed, they can compress the median nerve and cause symptoms such as pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness in the hand and wrist (via Mayo Clinic).

Carpal tunnel syndrome can be caused by underlying conditions or repetitive movements of the hands and wrists. Health conditions that frequently lead to carpal tunnel are ones that cause inflammation in the wrist. This includes diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, and thyroid dysfunction. People who perform the same hand movements over and over are also at a higher risk of developing carpal tunnel. This includes people who work as grocery checkers, assembly line workers, office workers, meat packers, and musicians. Consider speaking to your doctor about preventative care if you fall into one of these risk categories.

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is a general term for conditions that cause joint pain and stiffness (via Cleveland Clinic). There are many different types of arthritis, but the two most common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that occurs when the cartilage that cushions the joints breaks down. This can lead to pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes joint inflammation. This can damage the cartilage and bone in the joints, leading to pain, stiffness, and swelling.

Both carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis cause pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints. However, there are some key differences between the two conditions. Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by inflammation of the tissues surrounding the carpal tunnel, whereas arthritis is a general term for conditions that cause joint pain and stiffness (via WebMD). Carpal tunnel syndrome affects the hand and wrist, whereas arthritis can affect any joint in the body. Carpal tunnel syndrome is more likely to be caused by repetitive movement, whereas arthritis can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, age, and injury.

If you are experiencing pain, stiffness, or swelling in your joints, it is important to see a doctor to get a diagnosis. Only a doctor can determine whether you have carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, or another condition. Once a diagnosis is made, your doctor will develop a treatment plan that is tailored to your specific needs.