While arthritis and carpal tunnel may be similar in some ways, they are still two very different ailments.
Dr. Jane Peterson from Connect Chiropractic explained the difference.
"Arthritis is more of a general term for any joint that's being inflamed, whereas carpal tunnel is actually very specific to the actual carpal tunnel and the median nerve that runs through it."
Carpal tunnel, then, is an irritation of that median nerve, says Peterson, which travels into the hand. It's specific to any irritation to the nerve as it passes through the wrist.
A number of things can cause carpal tunnel in patients. Arthritis acts as one cause, due to the joint inflammation that can lead to similar inflammation of the median nerve. Many pregnant women experience carpal tunnel-like symptoms as well, Peterson says.
"A lot of it is thought to be any swelling that is going on because of the pregnancy."
Work-related stress, too, can contribute to someone developing carpal tunnel. "Really any jobs that place a lot of demand or pressure on the wrists with repetitive motions," explained Peterson.
Pain, numbness, burning, or tingling sensations can all be characteristics of carpal tunnel within your thumb and first two fingers. This is due to the separation caused in your hand by the median nerve.
"Just like everywhere in your body, moving around and stretching is definitely the number one thing we should be doing," Peterson says. Any movements to rotate and stretch your wrist can go a long way towards preventing and assisting with cases of carpal tunnel.
Similar to workplace ergonomics, jobs that have you behind a desk all day mean that it is important to ensure that your wrist is in a neutral position when typing or online.
On the other hand, rest can be another necessary way of treating carpal tunnel. "Moving is great, but if you do have a job that places a lot of demand on the wrist area, taking some rest and taking a break is really good."
Other simple things you can do to treat or prevent carpal tunnel include incorporating an inflammatory diet into your day-to-day life, and ensuring that your wrist in all aspects of your day is moving properly.