typing on laptopWhen extreme pain in the wrist is caused by repetitive stress in the hand’s joint, people almost always think they might have a carpal tunnel. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes, you are not experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome but instead endure wrist tendonitis. Here’s what you should know about each and their differences.

What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

A person experiences carpal tunnel syndrome when their median nerve or the nerve connecting their forearm to their hand gets damaged. People who have this encounter pain in their wrist, mainly the underside. They also feel a tingling sensation in their thumb, index, and middle fingers. The pinky finger is not included as the median nerve does not reach this part. As of writing, there is still an unknown reason it happens, but it is linked with repetitive motions imposed on the area. 

Jobs, activities, and sports that require pulling and pushing, tugging, or twisting the hands usually cause the syndrome. Those at high risk are farmworkers, factory and assembly workers, gardeners, mechanics, janitorial workers, homemakers, employees who do frequent typing, tennis players, gymnasts, and more. It can also be associated with other life changes such as getting injured, being pregnant, or becoming overweight. 

How to Know If You Have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Here are some signs that you might be experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome:

  • You feel the pain near your wrist
  • You cannot move some fingers in your affected hand, particularly the thumb, the pointing finger to the middle finger
  • Your fingers start to feel swollen even though they usually look fine
  • You feel a shock that comes and goes in the thumb and fingers
  • Your fingers could also feel numb, especially when you sleep with a bent wrist

What Is Wrist Tendonitis?

Wrist tendonitis usually gets confused with carpal tunnel syndrome because they share similar causes and symptoms. Wrist tendonitis can also occur due to repetitive movements of the body part. In this condition, however, it is not the median nerve that is compressed but the wrist’s tendons that have a problem. The tendon refers to the collagen cords that connect every muscle to the bone.

You can feel it more on the wrist joint because many tendons surround it. Plus, wrist tendonitis does not only affect one tendon but always two or more. When you have wrist tendonitis, it is like getting stress fractures on your bone. Even your pinky finger can experience numbness when you suffer from one. Besides the similar symptoms with CTS, wrist tendonitis can bring in a lot of pain. The inflammation can worsen and turn into painful tears. It also makes one lose their strength and agility. 

Carpal Tunnel vs. Wrist Tendonitis: How They Differ

Believe it or not, more people in the US experience wrist tendonitis than CTS. Still, the first thing that comes to mind when experiencing pain in the wrist is CTS. 

The main difference between the two is the location of the pain. As previously mentioned, when you have CTS, you feel pain in the palm side of the wrist and on selected fingers. If you feel pain in other areas, you are most likely experiencing wrist tendonitis. 

To quickly identify, check if you feel numbness or tingling sensation in your pinky finger. If you do, then it could be tendonitis. But it would always be best to consult a physician to make sure you know what the cause is. 


The wrist is a small yet frequently used part of the body, making it prone to damage. Whenever you start to feel pain, numbness, or tingling in this area, make sure that you address it promptly. The best way to do so is to consult with a medical professional to know if it’s carpal tunnel syndrome or wrist tendonitis. That way, you’ll receive the appropriate solution for your condition.

Should you need carpal tunnel syndrome treatment or wrist tendonitis treatment, we can help you at North Florida Hand and Wrist Center. We have been providing the best hand and wrist care in Jacksonville, FL since 1995, including emergency services. Contact us today to arrange an appointment or make inquiries.