If you have trouble opening a jar top, is it thumb arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome?


Pain opening a jar top or turning a key is typical when the joint at the base of the thumb--the basal joint--is worn out by arthritis. The stress at the thumb tip during pinch and grip is multiplied by 10-13 fold at the base of the thumb!! However, difficulty with pinch and grasp might also be attributed to carpal tunnel syndrome---preesure on the median nerve at the wrist. This is because such "entrapment/compression" can cause weakness due to the nerve supply to the pinch muscles (the thenar muscles) being affected. However, in the absence of tingling/numbness, the problem is usually "arthritis"---not carpal tunnel. But---in up to 45-50% of cases of thumb basal joint arthritis, carpal tunnel can be associated----so it is possible that both diagnoses may co-exist. An accurate exam by your doctor, and an xray of your thumb, may help clarify what is going on

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