If you are having pain in one or both hands, you may be wondering if carpal tunnel syndrome or arthritis is causing the pain. While both conditions can cause discomfort, there are several key differences between the two. Carpal tunnel syndrome can cause weakness, tingling, or numbness in the hands. Arthritis can also cause pain and make it difficult to grasp things, but for different reasons. Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by nerve compression and arthritis is caused by inflammation and damage to the joint.
Arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome are two distinct conditions that can happen on their own. However, sometimes arthritis can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. This means that if you have arthritis in your wrist or hand, you might have a higher risk of getting carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Just as it sounds, the carpal tunnel is a narrow tube or tunnel that runs through wrist bones called carpal bones. The carpal tunnel is only about an inch wide. The median nerve travels down your arm from the shoulder and runs through the carpal tunnel into your hand. There are also nine tendons going through the carpal tunnel. This makes it a tight fit. Any type of swelling in the tendons or changes to the bone can put pressure on or damage the median nerve. This can make it harder for your brain to send nerve messages to your hand and fingers. The median nerve is the main power supply to the muscles in the hand, thumb, and fingers.
Any kind of arthritis in the wrist can lead to CTS. This is because arthritis may cause:
- swelling in the wrist
- swelling in the tendons in the carpal tunnel
- bony spurs or growth in the wrist bones (carpals) around the carpal tunnel
You won’t always be able to tell if you have CTS or arthritis. This is because they can happen at the same time and cause similar symptoms.
Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
When carpal tunnel develops, it has a typical pattern. Some key signs, which can help differentiate carpal tunnel from different kinds of arthritis, include:
- Numbness and/or tingling in the first three fingers (thumb, index finger, and middle finger)
- Hand weakness
- Nighttime pain
- ‘Flicking’ provides pain relief (shaking hands as if they were asleep)
Where carpal tunnel syndrome involves nerve pain, arthritis involves joint pain. There are two types of arthritis that affect the wrists osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). OA occurs when the cartilage in your joints wears away due to age or overuse. In contrast, RA is an autoimmune condition. With RA, your immune system mistakenly attacks the synovium, which produces synovial fluid that lubricates your joints, causing joint inflammation, pain, and stiffness.
Finding the Right Treatment Plan
Treatment of both conditions starts with the correct diagnosis. This includes a history of symptoms, a physical examination, and X-rays of the affected areas. Nerve tests can be performed to help determine if you have carpal tunnel syndrome or if another problem may be causing the symptoms.
The first line of treatment is often supportive bracing. Anti-inflammatory medications can help, but only use under the advice of your doctor if needed longer than a couple of days. Cortisone injections can also be effective. Other treatment options include stretching exercises where the fingers are pulled back towards the top of the wrist, allowing you to feel the stretch in the palm of your hand. Hold this position for approximately 15-20 seconds then repeat. Other over-the-counter remedies for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome include vitamin B6 which may help nerve recovery and can be beneficial in the early stages of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Joint supplements can help to increase joint mobility, reduce inflammation, support cartilage repair, decrease stiffness, and stimulate lubricating fluids in the joints.
Flexcin has powerful ingredients like cetyl myristoleate (CM8) and more traditional anti-inflammation ingredients like glucosamine, MSM, bromelain, and Collagen, Flexcin is an effective supplement that may help with mobility, inflammation, and prevent further joint degeneration. Flexcin Motion Lotion is a topical cream that may be safely used to provide relief for symptoms of arthritis due to joint pain.
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