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Carol Eustice

Painful Hands - Is It Arthritis or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

By April 4, 2008

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Carpal tunnel syndrome affects an estimated 2 million people in the United States. You may know someone who has the condition or you may suspect you have it yourself when your hands begin to hurt. Not all hand pain is related to carpal tunnel syndrome though. Hand pain can be caused by many conditions including:

About half of all carpal tunnel cases are work-related and the condition accounts for the highest number of days missed at work compared to all other work-related injuries or illnesses. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), carpal tunnel syndrome develops when the median nerve in the wrist becomes inflamed. The median nerve controls sensations to the palm side of the thumb and fingers (not the little finger), as well as impulses to some small muscles in the hand that allow the fingers and thumb to move. Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms include:

  • difficulty holding objects
  • difficulty performing repetitive movements without pain
  • numbness, burning pain, tingling in hand or wrist that increases at night

Pianists, hair stylists, manual laborers, concert violinists, computer operators, and even surgeons are listed among those most commonly at higher risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Certain diseases and conditions, including many types of arthritis and rheumatic conditions, also increase the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. It's important to get an accurate diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome so that you can receive appropriate treatment. Early diagnosis and treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome may prevent permanent damage to the median nerve.

Conservative treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome are usually tried before surgery is considered to relieve pressure on the median nerve. Conservative treatment may include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), rest, splinting, cortisone injections, or physical therapy.

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Photo © A.D.A.M.

November 12, 2012 at 7:03 pm
(1) Sheri says:

Anyone with burning, numbness or tingling in their hands should have a blood test done for LYME DISEASE. I have Lyme Disease, and my neurological symptoms were unbearable at night. After three MRI’s and a series of useless doctors, I diagnosed my symptoms by researching online. Finding a Lyme specialist saved my life! A neurologist did nerve testing and determined that I have carpal tunnel syndrome – which is often caused by LYME DISEASE. Insist that your blood is sent to IGeneX Laboratory at 795 San Antonio Road, Palo Alto, CA 94303 for the Lyme Western Blot test. Many people get a false negative from other labs (as did I). Believe it or not, antibiotics can make your carpal tunnel symptoms go away if they are caused by Lyme Disease.

November 10, 2013 at 6:29 am
(2) Tom Corsile says:

Just had carpal tunnel operation two days ago and already feel much better. Both hands were in terrible pain and stiffness every morning, and would last through most of the day. There is no doubt I have lots of arthritis for I’ve had many parts replaced, ,two hips, one knee, neck fusion,7 back surgeries. I’m sure you get the picture. Two days after carpal tunnel surgery my hand already feels a lot less stiffer than prior to surgery. I’m looking forward to getting the other hand done a.s.a.p. I was smart because I didn’t wait too long and end up with permanent nerve damage.That’s the secret.

February 15, 2014 at 5:07 pm
(3) whatcc says:

The title had nothing to do with the actual article. The article simply stated some simple facts about carpal tunnel and made no mention of how to differentiate carpal tunnel from arthritis, and virtually no mention of arthritis itself save for a link or 2.

March 29, 2014 at 9:04 pm
(4) Carol says:

I agree whatcc. 90% of the article discussed carpal tunnel. I would have liked to see more discussion on the types of arthritis that could cause this too.

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