Carpal Tunnel vs. Arthritis: What’s the Difference?

Carpal Tunnel vs. Arthritis Whats the Difference

We use our hands countless times a day, making them vulnerable to disease and injury. Wrist pain can develop because of several issues, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis. While both conditions cause hand and wrist pain, there are many differences between the two.

Here are some key distinctions to note.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome develops when the carpal tunnel, a passageway that runs from the wrist to the hand, becomes swollen. The narrowing in this canal compresses the median nerve, preventing it from sending correct signals to the brain. As a result, you may feel numbness and a tingling sensation on your hand and fingers.

Carpal tunnel syndrome tends to develop due to poor positioning of the hands. However, there are certain conditions like obesity and diabetes that can increase the risk of developing this disorder, as well.


Arthritis is a condition where one or more joints become swollen or tender. There are several types, but the most common ones are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis is a progressive condition that causes the cartilage covering the bones to wear away. When left unchecked, there will be nothing to prevent the bones from rubbing against each other. With OA, you will likely experience pain and stiffness in your hands.

On the other hand, with rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system mistakenly attacks the joint lining. This condition causes inflammation, joint swelling, and deterioration. It is one of the most disabling types of arthritis, as it can damage the cartilage and bone.


Carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis tend to share several symptoms. While they may be similar in some aspects, they have some striking differences.

The most common symptom of carpal tunnel syndrome is numbness or tingling in your wrist or hand. The thumb and index, middle, or right fingers are among the most affected. You may also feel the sensation of electric shock in these fingers.

Another symptom of carpal tunnel syndrome is loss of grip strength. The median nerve controls the sensations in your hand and fingers, so you may be unable to grasp objects for a long time or find yourself dropping them more often.

On the other hand, the main symptom of arthritis is joint inflammation. Your joints will feel painful, swollen, and stiff instead of numb. Like carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis can also hinder you from moving or performing activities.


Doctors offer surgical and non-surgical methods for carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis. Conservative treatment options include taking medication to ease your symptoms. Pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs can relieve pain and stiffness in the short term. Your doctor may also ask you to wear a splint. This device can help keep your wrist still while you sleep.

In advanced cases, your doctor may recommend joint surgery. Surgical procedures are the last resort when your condition does not improve with conservative treatments.

Surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome aims to increase the space within the carpal tunnel. During the procedure, your doctor will make an incision through the ligament, expanding room for the median nerve. Doing so will ease the pressure off the nerve, relieving pain and improving function.

Your doctor will take a different approach to arthritis surgery depending on the extent of the damage to your joints. An orthopedic surgeon may recommend joint reconstruction or replacement to remedy your symptoms.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Arthritis Treatment in Clinton Township, MI

There is no single approach to carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis. Only by working with a professional can you find a solution that works for you.

For high-quality orthopedic treatment, visit Movement Orthopedics. Dr. Jeffrey Carroll is incredibly skilled in treating these conditions. He takes pride in using state-of-the-art surgical and non-surgical techniques.

To learn more about the treatments we offer, call us today at (586) 436-3785 or request an appointment online. We look forward to providing lasting relief from your condition!

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