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Wrist Tendonitis vs. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Recognizing the Difference

Wrist tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome are two distinct conditions that affect the hand and wrist, but they are often confused for one another.

Woman with pain in wrist

Wrist Tendonitis and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Risk Factors

Many cases of wrist tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome develop from strain due to repetitive motions or using power tools. These risk factors can be limited by taking regular breaks, using better posture or purchasing ergonomic office equipment.

Other risk factors for tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome cannot be controlled. These include:

  • Gender — Women are more likely to develop tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome than men, possibly due to hormones
  • Age — As we age, tendons become less elastic, and nerves are more susceptible to degeneration
  • Arthritis — Arthritis increases risk for both conditions
  • Genetics — Tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome can run in families
  • Injury — A fall or sudden injury could cause tendon or nerve injury

A doctor can diagnose which condition you have, but here’s how to recognize some of the similarities and differences:

  Wrist Tendonitis Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Causes Inflammation of a tendon in the wrist, often a result of repetitive motion that causes irritation and pain Compression of the median nerve, which controls sensation and impulses in the palm and fingers 
Symptoms Swelling, stiffness, reduced range of motion, warmth, decreased grip strength Numbness, itching or tingling in the hand, especially through the thumb to ring finger; symptoms often occur at night
Treatments Rest, ice, stretching, massage, acetaminophen/NSAIDs, occupational therapy, steroid injections Brace, ice, occupational therapy and/or steroid injections
Prevention Avoid repetitive motions, take regular breaks Take regular breaks, use correct posture to avoid injury 
Can Surgery Help? Most cases of wrist tendonitis can be treated with rest, therapy and strengthening exercises Surgery may help if less invasive treatments fail; surgery can repair nerve damage to restore mobility


Call the Orthopedic Hand Specialists at Surgery Center of Allentown

If you are suffering from pain, reduced motion or weakness in your hand or wrist, it is important that you not ignore your symptoms. You should be evaluated by a specialist. Tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome will continue to cause pain and complications until you receive treatment.

The board-certified hand surgeons at Surgery Center of Allentown are equipped to diagnose and treat your wrist pain, and they will begin with the least invasive method to promote healing and lasting relief.

Surgery Center of Allentown is conveniently located off the northeast extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike at the intersection of I-78 and I-476. Our orthopedic doctors are among the best in the area and are currently accepting new patients. Call our office at 484.477.0622 and make an appointment today.

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