Arthritis Or Carpal Tunnel?

carpal-tunnelWe rely on our hands for so many daily activities, whether working, driving or cooking. Hand pain stemming from arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome or other causes can be debilitating if not treated. Fortunately, there are many treatments available.

Arthritis is a very common cause of hand and wrist pain, says Dr. Ryan Riel, a Multi-Care orthopedic surgeon specializing in the hands. People can try to manage symptoms through resting and taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, he says, “but if symptoms persist, [patients] usually come in.”

Arthritis is more common in women over 50 and men 65 and up, according to Dr. Ian Lawson, also a MultiCare orthopedic surgeon and hand specialist. He says there are many options to consider—from injections, bracing and creams, all the way up to small joint replacement and reconstruction.

Says Riel: “We try to treat conditions conservatively at first. If surgery is called for, it will involve several weeks or months of hand therapy to regain full function. People are thrilled to get their full function back.”

Carpal tunnel syndrome
Wrist pain is less common than hand pain, according to Lawson. He says it tends to occur with younger people who do production work that requires repetitive motions.

Symptoms include numbness, pain and loss of motion. The pain can even interfere with sleeping. Lawson says it can usually be diagnosed from taking a history or doing an X-ray or nerve conduction studies.

Carpal tunnel can be treated with splints, cortisone shots or anti-inflammatory medicines. “If surgery is required, carpal tunnel release is a quick, simple and successful surgery,” says Lawson. “After this surgery you can do most things right away, which makes people very happy.”


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