Difference between rheumatoid arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome

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There are various diseases that can cause hand and finger pain. The common conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome affect the hands but they are distinct conditions. You can consult a doctor so that an accurate diagnosis can be made if the individual suffers pain, tingling or swelling in the hands or fingers that lasts for a few days or affects his/her ability to use the hands.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome can be caused by pressure on the median nerve which is located in the base of the palm. It is important to note that this nerve passes through a narrow tunnel along with nine tendons that move the thumb and fingers. The carpal tunnel is formed by small-sized bones in the wrist and a ligament that shapes the roof over the tunnel.

The median nerve provides sensation to the index, thumb, middle and half of the ring finger. It also supplies muscles that move the fingers and thumb. Carpal tunnel syndrome can cause pain, tingling and even numbness in these fingers. Over time, the weakness can develop in the muscles supplied by the nerve.

Rheumatoid arthrits
Rheumatoid arthritis develops once the immune system erroneously attacks the healthy joints in the body. This condition usually affects the joints in the fingers and hands.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis develops once the immune system erroneously attacks the healthy joints in the body. This condition usually affects the joints in the fingers and hands. The usual symptoms include stiffness, pain, joint swelling, warmth and redness of the affected areas. Rheumatoid arthritis affects all fingers and does not cause numbness or tingling.

Distinct differences

When it comes to carpal tunnel syndrome, it is caused by constant use of the tendons that bend the fingers and wrist or cases in which the individual keeps the wrists in an awkward position, either backward or completely bent for extended periods. The condition can be triggered by constant use of vibrating tools. Primarily, the individual will feel occasional pain or tingling in one of the affected fingers, especially at night when the wrist is held in a single position for a long time.

As for rheumatoid arthritis, often both hands are affected simultaneously. The stiffness starts in the fingers which is strikingly prominent in the morning. The severity of the symptoms depends on the level of inflammation in the joints and different for each individual. Nevertheless, the progressive deformity of the finger and wrist joints is not uncommon. Since this is an immune system disease, the whole body is affected.


For carpal tunnel syndrome, it is primarily treated with rest and instructing the individual to avoid activities that can worsen the symptoms. Physical therapy is often required for this condition. Other treatment options include splinting the wrist, massage and range of motion exercises. If you want to learn how to minimize the symptoms, click here. In severe cases, surgery is required in which a small incision is created over the tunnel while the roof is sliced to relieve pressure on the nerve.

When it comes to rheumatoid arthritis, it is treated using anti-inflammatory medications. Steroid medications are often prescribed to treat the symptoms. The symptoms can also be treated with rest as well as avoiding activities that aggravate the condition.

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