Similar Symptoms, Different Solutions: Tendonitis vs. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

carpal tunnel treatmentWhen you first start to experience discomfort or pain in your wrist, you probably aren’t too concerned with the exact diagnosis. You just want it to stop.

But when it comes to wrist problems, it is important to determine whether the issue is tendonitis or carpal tunnel syndrome. The two conditions have many symptoms in common, but they have different causes and require different approaches to treatment.

Getting a diagnosis from a physician is, of course, the best first step. Your doctor will be aware of the symptoms the two conditions share—and what to look for in order to tell one from the other.

Shared Symptoms Between Carpal Tunnel and Tendonitis

As we have noted, tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome have several symptoms in common. These include:

  • Pain in the wrist
  • Tingling and or weakness in the fingers
  • Tightness and/or pain in the wrist, forearm, and hand
  • Numbness in the fingers and palm of the hand
  • A swelling sensation and/or burning sensation

But while the conditions share these symptoms, there are other symptoms that set them apart from one another.

Key Differences Between Carpal Tunnel and Tendonitis

If a person is suffering from tendonitis, their symptoms may include:

  • Pain in the front and back sides of the wrist and hand
  • Tenderness immediately above the affected tendon

Meanwhile, a person dealing with carpal tunnel syndrome may experience:

  • An itching sensation
  • Pain that develops gradually in the hands
  • An inability to tell whether something is hot or cold by touch (severe cases)

Two Conditions With Separate Causes and Treatments

So what causes these two issues with the wrist? And what can be done to provide relief?

Tendonitis is caused by overuse of the wrist that leads to inflammation of the tendons. It is a common problem among those who engage in activities that require a lot of repetitive wrist motion. Computer users, knitters, tennis players, and carpenters are among those who may experience tendonitis at one time or another.

It is important to treat tendonitis so that the condition doesn’t worsen. Under the guidance of a physiotherapist, a person with tendonitis will work on building up their wrist and forearm strength. Treatment may include exercises, stretches, and massages intended to bring relief to the painful area.

Carpal tunnel syndrome, on the other hand, is caused not by overuse but by the compression of the median nerve running from the forearm to the palm. This nerve controls the impulses that allow our fingers to move and is also important to the experience of sensations in the fingers and the palm.

Compression of the median nerve may be the result of a number of different issues including:

  • Inflammation leading to a thickening of the tendons around the median nerve
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Tumors
  • Injury

What can be done about this problematic compression of the nerve? Surgery to release the compression has been one of the most common procedures in the United States.

Ultrasound-Guided Carpal Tunnel Release Can Help

More than half a million carpal tunnel release surgeries are performed annually in the U.S. For a long time, these surgeries routinely led to significant scarring and a lengthy recovery period.

Increasingly, however, these traditional surgeries are being replaced by ultrasound-guided carpal tunnel release procedures. These minimally invasive surgeries offer a range of benefits:

  • Only local anesthesia is required and the procedure can be performed in a doctor’s office setting.
  • The small incision generally does not require sutures and pain can be managed with acetaminophen or NSAIDs.
  • Postoperative therapy is generally not necessary—and the patient can move their hand immediately, which helps speed recovery.
  • Most people are back to normal activities within three to six days following the procedure.

Contact Dr. Eric H. Williams for Carpal Tunnel Treatment Today

If you are experience pain in your wrist, you want to be sure to have the condition properly diagnosed and treated. Dr. Eric H. Williams has the expertise, experience, and compassion necessary to find the source of the problem and to recommend the proper corrective approach. And if the problem is carpal tunnel syndrome, he can provide relief via ultrasound-guided carpal tunnel release.

When you are ready to get relief for your wrists, contact us for an appointment.

Eric H. Williams MD
Specializing in reconstructive surgery and pain relief in the Greater Baltimore area.