Carpal Tunnel Syndrome vs Tendonitis

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Both carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis are two relatively common types of injuries that occur in the hand. While they may share some similar symptoms and characteristics, they are characterized by different symptoms. Some people automatically assume they suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome when in fact they have tendonitis, or vise-versa. So, what’s the difference between carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis?

Let’s first take a look at the condition known as carpal tunnel syndrome. According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 3.1% of the employed adults between the ages of 18 and 64 suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome within the past 12 months.

Women have a slightly higher risk of developing this condition. The National Institute of Health estimates that women are three times more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome. Age also plays a role in the formation of carpal tunnel syndrome, as older adults are more likely to develop it than younger adults.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is characterized by pressure against the main nerve running through the hand. When the median nerve, which runs from the forearm up through the wrist, is compressed, carpal tunnel syndrome occurs. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, with most patients reporting a painful burning sensation, numbness, tingling and itching. Symptoms typically begin mild and gradually worsen if left untreated. The pain and discomfort may become so unbearable that the individual can no longer perform routine tasks, such as holding a coffee cup, balling his or her fist, etc.

People who perform repetitive motions using their hands for long periods of time are placed at risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome. For instance, office workers who type on the computer for 8 or more hours per day may experience compression against the median nerve. This is why it’s a good idea to take periodic breaks and stretch both your body and hands

Tendonitis, on the other hand, is characterized by inflammation in one or more tendons in the hand. Like carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis is also caused by repetitive motions, which is why so many people confuse the two conditions for one another. Performing the same motion with your hand for long periods of time stresses the tendons, resulting in small, near-microscopic rips and tears. These injuries then cause painful inflammation, along with the loss of strength and mobility in the affected hand.

Individuals suffering from tendonitis may find temporary relief by taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as aspirin or ibuprofen. These drugs work to reduce swelling and inflammation, releasing some of the built-up pressure inside the affected area.

If you’re experiencing pain, inflammation, limited mobility or similar symptoms in your hand, you should seek a professional diagnosis. The first step in treating conditions in the hand is to properly diagnose it. Certain treatment methods that work for tendonitis may not work for carpal tunnel syndrome.

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