Two Conditions That Are Often Misdiagnosed As Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a common medical condition that affects both wrist and hand, causing tingling, pain, and numbness sensation. However, the misdiagnosis rates for this condition are terribly high.

However, the other two conditions that are often misdiagnosed as carpal tunnel syndrome as they also share some of the same symptoms are rheumatoid arthritis and tendonitis. Misdiagnosis of CTS with these two other conditions can cause severe consequences on the health of an individual, leading to worsening symptoms, delayed treatment, and in some cases unneeded surgery. Therefore, patients as well as doctors need to be aware of the possibility of misdiagnosis and take action to ensure a precise diagnosis. So, here, this article will help you explore both the conditions that are frequently misdiagnosed as CTS and how to differentiate these two conditions from CTS.

Glance At The Topic:

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a common medical condition that causes tingling, pain, and numbness sensation in the wrist, hands, and fingers.
  • However, some people often misdiagnose CTS as rheumatoid arthritis and tendonitis.
  • The location of the symptoms and how they feel can help distinguish these conditions from each other.
  • Once diagnosed, CTS can be prevented with some lifestyle changes such as gently stretching or bending the hands, avoiding wrist bending, etc.
  • Moreover, other holistic treatments such as home remedies, therapies, medications, and even surgery in severe cases can be helpful options.

Understanding Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a medical condition that consists of 90% of neuropathy cases. It is often caused by the pressure or strain on the median nerve caused by repetitive movement. Typically, the median nerve moves through your forearm towards the wrist via a passageway called the carpal tunnel. The condition can cause pain, numbness, and tingling sensation in the wrists, hands, and fingers. It may affect one or both hands. If it occurs in one hand, this condition is called unilateral CTS and if it impacts both hands, this is called bilateral CTS. As per research, carpal tunnel syndrome more often affects women compared to men.

Do you know?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) might affect around 1.9 million people and between 300,000-500,000 surgeries are executed yearly to treat this condition.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms:

The following are the potential symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome:

  • Numbness or pain in fingers, wrist, or hand
  • Burning or tingling in the wrist
  • Loss of grip strength
  • Numbness and tingling sensation that makes you awake from sleep
  • Pain that goes up to the arm

CTS usually develops gradually and you might experience mild symptoms. But, over time, the symptoms might worsen if left untreated. So, if any of the symptoms last for a longer period, seek professional help.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Causes:

The main cause of CTS is repetitive use of the wrists and hands that exerts a huge pressure or stain on the median nerve. However, there are many other surprising causes of carpal tunnel syndrome that may include:

  • Obesity or overweight
  • Hormonal Fluctuations
  • Genetic Factors
  • Certain medical conditions

CT Syndrome Diagnosis:

For the diagnosis of CTS, doctors perform:

  • Physical exam: Professionals closely examine the symptoms a person is experiencing to determine the right causes. They will look for tingling, pain, and numbness in the hands, wrists, or fingers, and weak muscles around the thumb.
  • Further testing: Even if these symptoms are present, doctors will perform further testing to confirm the diagnosis of CTS. Those tests may include nerve conduction tests to detect nerve damage issues, blood tests to see whether the causes of numbness, pain, and tingling feeling in wrists and hands are other conditions like arthritis, diabetes, etc., and imaging studies such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, ultrasound, or computed tomography (CT) scan to see the median nerve in the carpal tunnel. This helps check the exact position and extent of the nerve compression.

What Are The Two Conditions That Are Often Misdiagnosed as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Though Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition, it is important to consider that the symptoms associated with it might be caused by other conditions too. So, you need to be aware of those conditions to prevent misdiagnosis. Are you wondering, “What is the common misdiagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome”? Well, the two conditions that are often misdiagnosed as carpal tunnel syndrome are rheumatoid arthritis and tendonitis.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome vs Rheumatoid Arthritis

Wondering, “What’s the difference between carpal tunnel and arthritis”? Let’s distinguish between both conditions to prevent any misdiagnosis. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is typically an autoimmune disorder that mainly affects the joints of the hand and wrist. This can result in joint damage, inflammation, and pain. This condition is frequently misdiagnosed as CTS as they have many similar symptoms. Those may include numbness, tingling, pain, weakness, and reduced functions of the wrists and hands.

The only difference between carpal tunnel and arthritis is the location of their symptoms. Carpal tunnel syndrome affects only the wrists and hands. Alternatively, rheumatoid arthritis is initially experienced in the small joints of the wrists and hands which can impact the joints of the whole body over time. Moreover, unlike CTS, rheumatoid arthritis is a kind of systemic disorder that means it can affect one or more systems of the body such as the heart, joints, eyes, lungs, and skin. It comes with general systemic symptoms like fever, weight loss, and fatigue. On the other hand, CTS is limited to only joints in the hands and wrists.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome vs Tendonitis

Tendonitis is another medical condition that is also often misdiagnosed with CTS as it shares the same symptoms with CTS. Well, this condition occurs when tendons in the hand and the wrists undergo inflammation, resulting in swelling, pain, and limited motion. These tendonitis symptoms can be the same as the pain, reduced function, and weakness associated with CTS.

Wondering “How to tell the difference between tendonitis and carpal tunnel?” Well, The location and severity of the associated symptoms of both conditions can differentiate them. CTS primarily affects the palm and fingers of the hand and the symptoms usually worsen at night time or during repetitive movements of the hand and wrist. Alternatively, tendonitis is generally localized near impacted tendons and becomes more severe by specific movements.

So, these are the two conditions that are often misdiagnosed as carpal tunnel syndrome due to their similar symptoms. For accurate diagnosis and the right treatment, consult the best orthopedic specialists around your location.

Can Carpal Tunnel Cause Shoulder Pain?

Though carpal tunnel syndrome is associated with wrist issues, many people ask, “Can carpal tunnel cause shoulder pain”! In most cases that are actually very rare, CTS can lead to shoulder pain. A person can feel referred pain (a pain which you feel somewhere else rather than the injured area) that rises rapidly up from the wrist to the shoulder and sometimes to the neck. This pain or discomfort can feel similar to an electric shock.

Why Does Carpal Tunnel Hurt More at Night?

Carpal tunnel usually hurts more at night because the tissue fluid present in the arms gets redistributed when the muscle pump is not in action. In other words, when we sleep during the night, our body is not moving and due to the increased fluid in the arms, there is pressure on the carpal tunnel which causes symptoms to emerge more at night time.

Can I Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

As many factors such as obesity, medical issues, hormonal fluctuations, etc. can contribute to Carpal tunnel syndrome, prevention can be challenging. However, you can follow some of the lifestyle measures to reduce the development and progression of such a condition those may include:

  • Practice hand and wrist stretches regularly before, during, and after repetitive movements: Regular hand and wrist stretches can help enhance the strength of the wrist and lower the pressure or strain on the carpal tunnel.
  • Maintain appropriate hand and wrist positions while working on a computer or using any tools: This is particularly necessary if you work more at computers and often use keywords and a mouse. Better to use ergonomic office chairs, a mouse, and keyboards that are designed to improve the posture of hands and wrists.
  • Wear wrist splints, particularly at night: When you sleep, wrists and elbows are bent which can put pressure on the median nerve in the carpal tunnel.

Can a Chiropractor Help Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Yes, a chiropractor can help in the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome. People often look for chiropractic care as it provides a non-medication approach to get relief from the symptoms of CTS. Specialists closely look at your situation and try to customize a treatment plan according to your health needs. They focus on your spine and neck as both parts of the body also contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome. Using some techniques such as stretching, gentle massage, and electrical stimulation on the spine and neck, a chiropractor can help give relief.

What Are The Other Holistic Treatment For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

You can follow some home remedies, medications, and alternative therapies. However, if the symptoms of CTS become more severe, drug treatment and surgery are the only options.

Home Remedies:

The following are a few home remedies that can help treat mild to moderate symptoms of CTS:

  • Massage your palms, wrists, and back side of your hand.
  • Apply heat to your affected wrist to relieve pain.
  • Use an ice pack to reduce swelling.
  • Use a wrist splint to reduce pressure on the median nerve.
  • Perform gentle wrist, hand, and finger stretching exercises.
  • Wear work gloves to cover the wrists and hands.
  • Give rest to your affected wrist and hand for about 2 weeks.
  • Place extra fabric or cloth on the utensils or tools for a more comfortable grip.
  • Have over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers like naproxen or ibuprofen.

Alternative Therapies:

These are some therapies that can help provide relief from symptoms associated with CTS in the short term:

  • Yoga with strengthening and stretching exercises might lower the pain and improve wrist grip.
  • Ultrasound therapy can increase the temperature of the injured hand or wrist area, potentially relieving pain and facilitating recovery.
  • Hand therapy methods such as joint mobilization, massage, etc. may relieve symptoms.
  • The application of topical anti-inflammatory medications might also help.
  • Low-level laser therapy may also relieve symptoms, as per research, but the evidence is limited.

Note: Make sure to always consult the healthcare professionals before planning for any alternative therapies. Doctors never advise replacing conventional treatment with unproven alternative therapies.

Drug Treatment and Surgery

Drug treatment: Prescription medications or injections are the effective drug treatment. Oral corticosteroid medications can lower swelling and inflammation, helping to reduce pressure or strain on the median nerve. These medicines are also available in the form of injections and are more effective than oral medications for CTS treatment.

Surgery: When medications do not work and symptoms become more severe, doctors recommend surgery. According to a study, CTS improves more after surgery than non-surgical treatments (such as home remedies, lifestyle changes, or therapies). Here are the 2 types of surgery for CTS:

  • Open surgery: During the process, surgeons perform a single cut over the palm side of the patient’s wrist. Then, they make a cut in ligaments that presses on the nerve, thus, relieving the pressure on the median nerve.
  • Endoscopic surgery: The doctors make a small cut on the wrist and pass the endoscope (a tiny device with a small, attached camera) through it to cut the ligament.

Final Thoughts

This article examines two conditions that are often misdiagnosed as carpal tunnel syndrome. Early medical care is crucial for effectively managing carpal tunnel syndrome. Also, the right diagnosis will guide in determining the appropriate treatment. If misdiagnosed, it can lead to suffering for a long period and delay in the right treatment. So, if you’re experiencing pain, numbness, or tingling in the hands or wrists, consult the best orthopedic doctors available at Credihealth.


  • Menopause: It is the end of the menstrual cycles (periods) of the women.
  • Autoimmune Disorder: A disorder in which the immune system of the body accidentally attacks healthy cells instead of protecting them.
  • Neuropathy: It is a condition that results in nerve damage caused by many diseases like diabetes.
  • Differential Diagnosis: It is a method to differentiate one condition from another that shows similar symptoms.
  • Systemic Disorder: It is a health condition that affects one or more systems of the body like digestive, respiratory, neurological, or circulatory systems.



Discover Related/Similar Topics: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment Options | How to Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? | Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: How Long Does It Take to Heal? | Easy Ways to Avoid Exacerbating Carpal Tunnel Pain | Why are My Fingertips Numb? 7 Common Causes and Solutions | Your Hands Reveal These 6 Signs of Bad Health: Watch Closely! | Ulnar Nerve Entrapment Exercises That You Must Try! | Learn How Your Palm Indicates Signs Of Many Diseases

Credit : Source Post

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply
Shopping cart