Both carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis are common reasons that people experience uncomfortable numbness and pain in the hands. In fact, the symptoms of each of these different conditions are very similar. Because the ways to improve comfort are not similar, it is important to know how to differentiate. Recognizing the unique characteristics of carpal tunnel syndrome can pave the way to a proper diagnosis, which then leads to successful treatment.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition of inflammation that occurs within an actual physical space at the center of the wrist called the carpal tunnel. This space is integral to the passage of the median nerve through the bones and ligaments of the wrist joint. This nerve travels through the tunnel to supply sensation to the middle and index fingers and the thumb. Symptoms occur when the median nerve is pressed upon by inflamed tendons in the wrist.
How Carpal Tunnel Stands Out
As stated, several of the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are similar to those experienced from arthritis. There are a few distinctions, and these may help us reach an accurate diagnosis. These distinctions relate to the sensations of numbness and tingling. When the carpal tunnel is the cause of those sensations, they may:
- Affect only the thumb, or the thumb and first two fingers. Rarely does carpal tunnel affect the pinky.
- Extend up the forearm.
- Feel worse in the morning and feel noticeable at night. Tingling may even cause sleep disturbances.
- Occur when driving or holding an object in hand.
- Occur or worsen with repetitive motion.
- Feel better if you shake your hand.
Sometimes, carpal tunnel improves with rest and anti-inflammatory medication. If symptoms persist or worsen, a medical consultation is then advisable. Following a carpal tunnel consultation, you may not need surgery. Typically, conservative methods are recommended for mild to moderate symptomology. Surgery may then be necessary if medication or injections do not improve symptoms.
Schedule a Consultation
Ultimately, the goal in diagnosing and treating wrist pain is to put an end to that pain and improve quality of life. To learn more about how we approach wrist pain in our New Jersey offices, call (973) 942-1315.