Someone with wrist pain

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that occurs when there is compression of the median nerve at the wrist. The median nerve is one of the main nerves in the hand and controls movement and sensation in the thumb and first three fingers. Carpal tunnel syndrome can cause pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness in these fingers (via Mayo Clinic). Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome typically begin gradually and worsen over time. Early symptoms may include occasional pain or tingling in the hand and wrist. As the condition progresses, symptoms may become more constant, and may include numbness, weakness, and difficulty gripping objects.

If carpal tunnel syndrome is left untreated, it can lead to permanent damage to the median nerve. Therefore, it is important to seek medical treatment if you suspect you have carpal tunnel syndrome. Treatment options will vary depending on the severity of your symptoms. Mild cases of carpal tunnel syndrome may be treated with splinting or corticosteroid injections. These treatments can help reduce inflammation and relieve pressure on the median nerve. More severe cases may require surgery to release the pressure on the nerve.

Because carpal tunnel syndrome is a relatively common condition, many people with pain in their hands and wrists may think they have it. However, there are several other conditions that can cause similar symptoms.

Arthritis

Someone with arthritis in their wrist

Arthritis in the hands and wrists is a common condition that can cause pain and inflammation. The symptoms of arthritis can be similar to those of carpal tunnel syndrome, but there are some important differences. Arthritis is a general term for conditions that affect the joints (via Cleveland Clinic). There are many different types of arthritis, but the most common form affecting the hands and wrists is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that occurs when the cartilage that protects the joints breaks down. This can lead to pain, stiffness, and inflammation.

While both arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome can cause similar symptoms, there are some important differences. Arthritis is a chronic condition that can worsen over time, while carpal tunnel syndrome is typically a temporary condition that will improve with treatment, according to WebMD. Arthritis can also affect other joints in the body, while carpal tunnel syndrome is limited to the wrist and hand. If you think you may be suffering from arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome, it is important to see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis. Treatment for arthritis may include medication, physical therapy, or surgery.

Sprained hand or wrist

Someone with a broken or sprained wrist

Most people have experienced a sprain at some point in their life. A sprain is when the ligaments that connect bones are stretched or torn, according to WebMD. If you are experiencing pain in your hand or wrist, you may have a sprain. Wrist sprains usually occur when you fall on an outstretched hand or twist your wrist in an awkward way. You might hear a popping sound when the ligament is torn. Wrist sprains can range from mild to severe, depending on how much damage has been done to the ligament. If you have sprained your hand or wrist, you will typically experience moderate to severe pain, as well as bruising and tenderness.

If you think you have sprained your wrist, it is important to see a doctor right away. He or she can determine how severe the sprain is and whether or not you need further treatment. Treatment for a sprained wrist includes resting the joint, applying ice to reduce swelling, and wearing a splint or brace to immobilize the joint. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to repair the ligament.

Tendonitis

A person with wrist pain

While carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by compression of the median nerve in the wrist, tendonitis is caused by inflammation of the tendons. Tendons are the strong cords of tissue that connect our muscles to our bones. Tendonitis (also called tendinitis) is an inflammation or irritation of a tendon, a thick band of tissue that connects muscle to bone (via Cleveland Clinic). The wrist is a common site for tendonitis because it is used repetitively in many activities. Tendonitis can be acute, meaning it comes on suddenly, or chronic, meaning it develops over time.

The most common cause of tendinitis is the overuse of a tendon. This can happen during the course of daily activities, work, or sports. You are most likely to develop this condition if you perform the same movement over and over. Tendonitis will often cause pain and inflammation in the affected area or joint. The area might have a dull aching pain or it might feel tender to the touch. Treatment for tendonitis includes rest, ice, and over-the-counter pain relievers. If the pain does not improve with home treatment, you may need to see a doctor or other healthcare provider. Surgery is rarely needed (via WebMD).

Cervical radiculopathy

A person rubs their neck

A pinched nerve and carpal tunnel syndrome both involve nerves, so they often have very similar symptoms. However, there are some key ways in which they differ. Cervical radiculopathy occurs when a nerve in the neck is compressed or pinched (via WebMD). This can happen due to a herniated disc, osteoarthritis, or other spine problems. The symptoms of cervical radiculopathy include neck pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the arm or hand.

Carpal tunnel syndrome, on the other hand, occurs when the median nerve is compressed as it passes through the carpal tunnel in the wrist. Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome also include pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the hand and fingers (via Johns Hopkins Medicine). The main difference between the two conditions is where the pain originates. If your pain comes from your neck and goes all the way down your arm, you probably have cervical radiculopathy. If it is limited to your hand and wrist, it may be carpal tunnel syndrome. If you aren’t sure why you are experiencing pain in your hand or wrist, talk to your doctor about your symptoms.

Neuropathy

A doctor with an illustration of the brain

Neuropathy is a condition that affects the nerves, and carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that affects the wrists. Both conditions can cause pain, numbness, and tingling in the hands and fingers. However, there are some key differences between the two. Neuropathy is a condition that occurs when nerves are damaged, and most commonly refers to nerves near the brain and spinal cord being damaged (via Mayo Clinic). This damage can be caused by injury, disease, or certain medications and can cause numbness, weakness, and pain in multiple areas of the body, including in the hands and fingers.

Neuropathy typically affects the larger nerves in the body, while carpal tunnel syndrome specifically affects the median nerve in the wrist. Additionally, neuropathy is usually caused by damage to the nervous system, whereas carpal tunnel syndrome is typically caused by repetitive motion or other stress on the wrist. Treatment for neuropathy often includes medication to help relieve pain and improve nerve function. While both conditions can be painful and debilitating, it’s important to seek treatment specific to your condition in order to find the most effective relief possible.