Carpal Tunnel Or Wrist Tendonitis – How Can You Tell the Difference?

How do you tell the difference between Carpal Tunnel and Wrist Tendonitis?

The fact is, these two issues are commonly confused and misdiagnosed. Here are some important factors to take into account when trying to figure out what is causing your pain.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a grouping of the symptoms of wrist pain, numbness, muscle weakness, shooting pain, and reduced range of motion.   CTS consists of a pattern of increasing tightness and pain in the forearms and wrist and hand, the whole arm really.

Tendonitis of the Wrist, interestingly enough, can cause all the same symptoms. And you can have tendonitis on the tendons on the front side of your hand/wrist, the back side of your hand/wrist, or both. This is mostly caused by…a pattern of increasing tightness and pain in the forearms and wrist and hand, the whole arm really.

See any similarities? 

Oh, and, for the record, you can have Carpal Tunnel -and- Wrist Tendinitis at the same time.  No wonder it can be confusing. 

Your wrist hurts. Why? Let’s take a look.  There are some things to look for to help find the difference between one or the other.

Search around and feel along the tendons from each forearm muscle to where it turns to tendon, to where tendon connects to hand bones.

If you  find a hot spot, a very sharp, painful spot on the tendon, that is Tendonitis. 

  1. If you have pain and numbness but no hot spot, that points to a Carpal Tunnel dynamic.
  2. If you have pain and numbness and a hot spot on the palm side of your wrist, that points to Wrist Tendonitis, which is causing muscle and connective tissue to constrict and possibly cutting off nerve supply to the hand.
  3. If you have pain and numbness and a hot spot on the back-of-the-hand side of your wrist, that points to having both (but I find it usually means tendonitis that is causing the symptoms)
  4. If you don’t have numbness, that points to tendonitis.

Why is it important to know the correct label for the source of your pain? Well, wouldn’t you feel silly if you went through all the trauma and trouble of getting carpal tunnel Surgery, only to find out later that you really just had tendonitis of the wrist. Oops.

Another important thing to know, is that both CTS and wrist tendinitis share the same dynamic. They both are affected by repetitive motion, both share a pattern of getting tighter and tighter, getting inflammation, and getting more and more painful.

It is also important to know the RIGHT way to make it better, and to know that you must understand WHY you are hurting. That’s why it is important to know what exactly you are suffering from.