Are you wondering if the pain in your shoulder is from carpal tunnel syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome starts in the wrist and involves a compression of the median nerve. Below is an illustration of what this looks like.

For this article I interviewed Jonathan Oheb, MD, North Valley Orthopedic Institute, Chief of Orthopedic Hand and Upper Extremity Surgery; jonathanohebmd.com.

Here is what Dr. Oheb explains: “Carpal tunnel syndrome cannot cause shoulder pain per se.  However, one can often get symptoms of referred pain up the arm from median nerve compression distally at the wrist.

“This is not common but can sometimes present as a patient complaint.”

“Referred” pain means that the sensation of the pain is in an area other than the source of the pain. There is nothing in that actual area that is causing the discomfort.

An example of referred pain is a pinched nerve in the neck causing a headache behind the eye.

There is nothing wrong with the structures behind the eye in such a case; the origin of the pain is the compressed nerve in the neck.

So in carpal tunnel syndrome, likewise, the origin of the problem (compressed nerve) is in the wrist, but in uncommon cases, the patient can get a referral pain in the shoulder.