Carpal Tunnel or Arthritis?

carpal tunnel or arthritis

Are you wondering if your hand pain is due to carpal tunnel or arthritis? In an aging population, arthritis is everywhere. Therefore, patients ask me about the difference all the time. It’s a good question, and I’ll explain how you can tell one from the other. However, in the early stages of rheumatoid arthritis, it’s hard to tell that from carpal tunnel symptoms without a thorough exam.

What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

The main thing about carpal tunnel syndrome is that it results from nerve damage. First, it begins when the tendons inside the wrist joint inflame. As a result, they swell and squeeze the other tissues confined inside the wrist joint. One of those tissues is the median nerve. Hence, squeezing the nerve causes the severe symptoms. Generally, these are pain, numbness, tingling, and burning sensations in the fingers, hand or wrist. The thumb is usually most painful. Also, the little finger never has symptoms. As a matter of fact, if pain is the primary symptom, it’s usually present even when the hand is resting. Usually night time symptoms are much worse.

With carpal tunnel, hand strength is compromised. It affects grip strength and the hand weakens. Patients feel their hand is clumsy. They have difficulty tying shoelaces, buttoning a shirt, or picking up coins. Indeed, as the condition worsens, sensitivity to hot and cold lessens.

carpal tunnel or arthritis

What is arthritis?

Arthritis means “inflammation of the joint”. Generally, there are two types of arthritis most prevalent in the population.

Osteoarthritis, the most common form, is a “wear and tear” condition. Generally, it’s associated with aging. With damage to a joint’s cartilage, bones can grind against each other. Thus, it usually produces pain and limits your motion. Usually it occurs in the knee and hip joint. For the most part, osteoarthritis symptoms include pain in the affected joint either during or after movement. Other symptoms include:

  • Joint stiffness and tenderness
  • Grating sensation as the joint moves
  • Swelling and loss of flexibility

Usually rheumatoid arthritis is a disease doctors have a lot of difficulty diagnosing. In fact, even seasoned doctors wonder if a patient’s symptoms are due to carpal tunnel or arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis affects the whole body. Essentially, your body’s defense mechanism against foreign invaders (like bacteria) malfunctions. As a result, your body attacks your own joints. Usually it affects the joints in the hands and feet. Also, it can cause elbow, neck and shoulder problems. Generally, rheumatoid arthritis results in tender, warm, stiff or swollen joints. Commonly, a person also has fatigue, fever or loss of appetite. About 40% also have symptoms in other body parts aside from their joints. There is no single blood test or physical finding to confirm the diagnosis. However, a series of blood tests, X-rays, and MRI can help pinpoint the diagnosis

How carpal tunnel or arthritis symptoms seem similar

A doctor must determine if your symptoms are due to carpal tunnel or arthritis. However, it’s not an easy task, especially in the early stages of rheumatoid arthritis. That’s because the pain felt in the wrist, hand or fingers is nearly identical in both conditions. Usually, both conditions cause throbbing or dull pain in the joints and fingers. And it occurs for most of the day. Also, both conditions give you the feeling of tenderness. These symptoms even wake you up at night. Thus, either carpal tunnel or arthritis can give you any of these signs. And in both conditions, pain medicines like NSAIDs (Advil, Aleve, and Tylenol) temporarily relieve the pain.

However, as time goes on, the systemic effects of rheumatoid arthritis begin to happen. That’s when you know carpal tunnel will not cause those symptoms. They include fatigue, fever or loss of appetite. In contrast, carpal tunnel symptoms remain in the fingers, hand and wrist. However, sometimes with carpal tunnel the pain shoots up the arm to the elbow.


Your doctor can determine whether you have carpal tunnel or arthritis. However, it’s difficult to tell the difference between the early stages of rheumatoid arthritis and carpal tunnel. Oftentimes, the signs and symptoms are nearly identical. But a careful exam should be able to distinguish between these two conditions.

cure carpal tunnel at home

Two 15 minute Carpal Rx treatments
for 30 days cures symptoms in
97% of carpal tunnel patients.

About 15 years ago my wife was waking up during the wee hours screaming from carpal tunnel pain.
This isn’t an exaggerating. She’d literally scream from the pain shooting up through her wrist and into her shoulder. The poor thing still shudders when she thinks about it.

I knew she had carpal tunnel syndrome. And being a physiologist, I knew how to treat her. I’m skilled in a physical therapy technique called myofascial release. It’s a type of massage with an excellent track record for completely curing carpal tunnel symptoms.

So I’d massage her arm until the pain subsided and we could both go back to sleep. But her pain was so severe that she insisted on wanting surgery. It was so bad that she was afraid to go sleep at night.

I was dead-set against surgery because I knew myofascial release was a much better option. I made a bargain with her. Give me 30 days to cure her symptoms using massage and if it didn’t work – I’d go along with the surgery.

She agreed and I got busy in the lab. I hodgepodged together the first Carpal Rx prototype. Using it before bed for 15 minutes, she was able to sleep through the night by the 2nd day.

Carpal Rx, born out of love & compassion.

Dr. Z invented Carpal Rx to cure his wife’s symptoms so she didn’t have to undergo surgery.

Carpal Rx, born of love & compassion