Arthritis/Carpal Tunnel Overview
A collation of information from credible sources revealed that arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome are among the leading causes of hand pain in the U.S. However, a survey report by Buoy Health established that the top two causes of hand pain are carpal tunnel syndrome (42%) and ulnar nerve entrapment of elbow (42%). Arthritis is responsible for at least 30 million cases of hand pain every year in the U.S., while carpal tunnel syndrome is attributed to over 8 million cases of hand pain in the U.S. every year. Below is a deep dive into our findings.
Leading causes of hand pain in the United States
An extensive search on medical journals, health organizations, health blogs, and research reports confirms that arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome are some leading causes of hand pain in the U.S. An article by WebMed listed both arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome among the top five causes of hand pain. Although the report did not provide a ranking of this causes by any parameter, it noted that carpal tunnel syndrome is "one of the most common nerve disorders of the hand", while arthritis was described as "a leading source of hand pain."
Another publication by Health Line highlighted 10 causes of hand pain in the U.S. Arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome were also included on the list, with arthritis specifically regarded a leading cause of hand pain. Furthermore, a health research report published by Research Gate provided a list of the causes of hand pain, which also included both arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome. However, a publication by Buoy Health — which originated from the Harvard Innovation Lab and partners with the Harvard Primary Care — provided a list of six causes of hand pain generated from a survey. While carpal tunnel syndrome was at the top of the list, arthritis was not included. According to the survey result, carpal tunnel syndrome (42%) and ulnar nerve entrapment of elbow (42%) were attributed as the top two causes of hand pain.
Number of hand pains caused by arthritis and carpal tunnel
While no specific data on the exact number of cases of hand pain caused by arthritis and carpal tunnel annually in the U.S. is available, we have provided an estimate of the number of incidence from available data points.
ARTHRITIS: The Arthritis Foundation noted that "about 54 million adults and almost 300,000 children “officially” have arthritis or another type of rheumatic disease" in the U.S. However, factoring in those who have not been diagnosed by a doctor takes this number to about 91 million cases. While there are over 100 different types of arthritis, osteoarthritis is regarded as the most common form. The Arthritis Foundation revealed that over 30 million Americans are diagnosed with osteoarthritis annually. Although osteoarthritis "occurs most often in knees, hips, lower back and neck, small joints of the fingers, and the bases of the thumb and big toe", and that rheumatoid arthritis also causes hand pain, it would be wrong to conclude that there are over 30 million incidences of hand pain caused by arthritis in the U.S. per year. However, we can conclude that at least 30 million cases of hand pain in the U.S. can be attributed to arthritis annually.
CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME: According to our findings, over 8 million Americans are affected by carpal tunnel syndrome annually. Giving that carpal tunnel affects the hand, and its "symptoms include frequent burning, tingling, or itching numbness in the palm of the hand and the fingers," which causes pains around the thumb, index finger, and middle finger", we can conclude that every year, there are eight million or more cases of carpal tunnel syndrome that lead to hand pain.