How does arthritis in the hands cause carpal tunnel syndrome?

There are two kinds of arthritis: rheumatoid and degenerative. Both kinds can result in changes that lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. The carpal tunnel is an oval-shaped space in the wrist formed by bones and ligaments. The median nerve and tendons to the hand pass through this space.

Anything that narrows the space can put pressure on the nerve and cause painful symptoms. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, swelling from inflammation can do this. With degenerative arthritis, the bones in the wrist can form bone spurs. These can protrude into the tunnel and press against the nerve.