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Tendonitis vs Carpal Tunnel

Tendonitis vs Carpal Tunnel

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, also known as CTS, is a prevalent condition that commonly caused by repetitive strain, trauma, or injury at work. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome impacts many people today and one that can cause severe pain and discomfort in the hands and wrists. While many people know what Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is, this common ailment is unfortunately often confused with another issue known as tendonitis.

While tendonitis in the wrist and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can have some similar symptoms, the two are actually very different ailments, with varying effects of side and different treatment options. Simply put, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is an injury of the nerves, while tendonitis is an injury of the tendon.

The more you know about the difference between these two conditions, the easier it will be to get the help and treatment that you need.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Many people misdiagnose wrist tendonitis with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, as CTS is much more common and understood. CTS may occur from the repetitive motion of the wrist, injury or trauma, or overexertion of the wrist in daily work, and is a significant contributor to work-related disability and worker’s compensation claims.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data:

  • Carpel tunnel syndrome may affect as many as 1.9 million people, and 300,000 to 500,000 surgeries are performed each year to correct this condition4
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 26,794 CTS cases involving days away from work in 2001, representing a median of 25 days away from work compared with 6 days for all nonfatal injury and illness cases. Most cases involved workers who were aged 25–54 (84%), female, and white, non-Hispanic (75%)4
  • Two occupational groups accounted for more than 70% of all CTS cases in 2001: operators, fabricators, and laborers; and technical, sales, and administrative support4

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which is the nerve that runs from the forearm through the wrist and into the hands and fingers. When this important nerve goes through the arm and into the hand, it must pass through an opening in the wrist known as the Carpal Tunnel. Many times, this condition develops after consistent use of the wrist and hands.

When this nerve becomes pinches as it runs through this tunnel, it is known as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. For most individuals suffering from this condition, a wrist brace, physical therapy or medications can help with the associated pain, numbness and tingling that often comes with this condition. In some more severe cases, you can also get surgery to open up this tunnel and alleviate the pressure on the nerve. Typically, doctors who treat carpal tunnel injury, will start with the least invasive options before recommending surgical solutions.


While wrist tendonitis (or tendinitis) also includes pain and discomfort in the wrist and hand area—it is an entirely different injury altogether. With this condition, any of the multiple tendons around the wrist become inflamed and ultimately start swelling. While in some situations, this condition develops over time; in others, it appears following a wrist injury.

In most situations, wrist tendonitis can eventually heal on its own. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen can help with the associated swelling, while icing and plenty of rest can give the tendons a chance to heal. Managing the swelling is one of the most significant components of successful tendonitis recovery.

In some more challenging situations, a brace, steroid injections, and even Occupation Therapy or Physical Therapy may be recommended with wrist tendonitis, but there is no need for surgical intervention.

If you are suffering from wrist or hand pain, numbness, or tingling in the fingers or discomfort in your hand and wrist area—then you should find a  doctor for more information and further diagnosis. A medical professional will be able to diagnose you with wrist tendonitis or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and help you understand the severity of your condition and determine your best course of action for treatment. This will put you in the best possible position to not only determine what type of ailment you are dealing with but the best way for you to find the relief that you are looking for.


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