The Pain or Numbness in Your Hands May Not Be Arthritis

A pinched nerve in your wrist can mimic arthritis symptoms, but the culprit is likely carpal tunnel syndrome.

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If you feel sharp, shooting pains in your wrist or hand, you may immediately think "arthritis"-especially if you already suffer from arthritis in your knees or other joints. But painful hands can indicate another problem-carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). "CTS is caused by a pinched nerve," explains Matthew Bunyard, MD, director of Clinic Operations in the Department of Rheumatic and Immunologic Diseases at Cleveland Clinic. In addition to pain, youre apt to experience numbness and tingling, just as you would if you had a pinched nerve elsewhere in your body. "Many people think the pain is arthritis, or just wrist pain from repetitive motion. But neither condition will cause CTS symptoms unless a nerve-in this case, the median nerve-is affected. The pinched nerve is the root of the problem," Dr. Bunyard says. "Some people awaken with a numb wrist and think that its a circulation problem. But they havent cut off their blood supply. Theyve just pinched their median nerve." By shaking the hand to "wake it up," you reposition the wrist, which reduces symptoms.
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