Carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis

Carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis really needs to be defined a little better.

Arthritis simply means inflammation of a joint or joints. Arthritis however, is not a "simple" disease.



There are literally dozens and dozens of different types of arthritis. The two that are more commonly seen in carpal tunnel syndrome are Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and Osteoarthritis (OA)
OsteoArthritis is caused by a breakdown and eventual loss of the cartilage in the joint. People sometime refer to this as "old age" arthritis or degenerative arthritis, because it generally is seen more in our older folks say 60 and older.

Rheumatoid Arthritis is an AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE [a condition where your own immune system breaks down your own tissues and or joints] that causes chronic inflammation of the membranes or tissues that line the joint. Carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis

In both of these types of ARTHRITIS regarding carpal tunnel syndrome, the cause or why you get CTS is about the same. As you remember from Carpal tunnel syndrome Explanation and Carpal tunnel anatomy, the carpal tunnel is a tunnel with wrist bones on one side and a thick ligament on the other. (Making it a closed space). So if there is abnormal bone growth that crowds the carpal tunnel space you may eventually get carpal tunnel syndrome.




In One study by the Department of Neurology at Dicle University, Dr. Aluclu showed that 25 % of Rheumatoid patients had carpal tunnel syndrome. The study also indicated that traditional physical exams were NOT AS ACCURATE on RA patients and that EMG/ NCS were the best.


The chronic inflammation of the joint cartilage and tissue membranes that occurs in Rheumatoid arthritis and Osteoarthritis can cause new bone to grow called outgrowths. Basically it is rough, jagged bone spurs that form in and around the wrist joint resulting in LESS TUNNEL SPACE. This puts more pressure on the tendons and median nerve, giving the person WRSIT PAIN, LESS MOVEMENT, and the CLASSICAL NUMBNESS and TINGLING of CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME.

Patients with carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis can still benefit from Non-surgical carpal tunnel treatment with ONE EXCEPTION-It is best to use mild moist heat on the wrist and hands instead of ICE. ICE on arthritic joints make them even more stiff and painful!

In my opinion anyone with Rheumatoid arthritis should be at least evaluated by a Rheumatologist and for more severe cases you should be followed by this type of specialist as well. For milder cases of RA Your primary care provider can typically follow you after your initial evaluation by a Rheumatologist.

Most cases of Osteoarthritis can be followed by your primary care provider, unless joint complications occur, or if there was a prior severe wrist fracture, which was aggravating a current carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis case then you should be referred to a Rheumatologist or an orthopedist for at least a consult.

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