Wrist Pain: Is it Tendonitis or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

You rely on your hands to accomplish your tasks throughout the day. If you have wrist pain, you may struggle to focus on or complete the things you need to do. Shooting pain or tingling sensations in your fingers, hands, and wrists can be frustrating and scary. You may be wondering what is going on and if your wrist pain is caused by tendonitis or carpal tunnel syndrome.

These two conditions share similar symptoms, so they are often confused with each other. Below, we explain the difference between tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome.

What Is Wrist Tendonitis?

Wrist tendonitis is inflammation of the tendons in your wrist. One or more of your ten wrist tendons may be affected. On top of causing pain, this condition may make your wrist swell and your pinky finger feel numb.

What Causes Tendonitis?

Often, tendonitis is caused by repetitive motion or overuse. These motions cause small tears in the tendons, leading to inflammation. Employees working in assembly lines frequently experience tendonitis at some point in their lives. Additionally, people who have injured their wrists in the past may develop this condition as they age. You can reduce the chances of getting tendonitis by focusing on wrist injury prevention.

How Is Tendonitis Treated?

If you suspect you have tendonitis, try taking anti-inflammatory medication (such as ibuprofen) and see if this relieves your pain. You can also try icing your wrist. These will be the recommendations doctors will give you first before suggesting other forms of treatment.

If you’re still suffering pain in your wrist, your wrist specialist may suggest occupational therapy, wrist bracing, or steroid injections. Surgery is not a treatment option for tendonitis.

What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Unlike tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) does not affect the tendons. Instead, CTS occurs when the median nerve that runs through your wrist is pinched. This compressed nerve causes numbness or tingling in your thumb, index finger, middle finger, hand, and wrist. Often, people feel symptoms of CTS at night.

What Causes CTS?

The causes of carpal tunnel syndrome are still relatively a mystery. Women, older individuals, and those who have had wrist injuries are more susceptible to developing it. Frequent typing and texting may cause some cases of CTS.

How Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treated?

Doctors will often treat CTS by using noninvasive methods first. They may have you wear a wrist brace, participate in occupational therapy, or take steroid injections. If the symptoms are severe, they may suggest surgery to repair nerve damage so you can have full mobility in your hand and wrist again.

Tendonitis vs. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

If you’re experiencing wrist pain, it’s helpful to note that the most significant difference between tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome is that one affects the tendons, and the other affects the nerves of your wrist. It’s also important to note that chronic wrist pain should not be self-diagnosed.

Philadelphia Hand to Shoulder Center can help you manage pain with our arm and hand rehabilitation and surgical services. If you have wrist pain, schedule an appointment with a wrist specialist to figure out what is causing the discomfort.

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