Can Carpal Tunnel Syndrome be a Work-Related Injury?
According to OSHA, repetitive stress injuries (RSI) constitute one of the most costly occupational health problems affecting Americans. Carpal tunnel syndrome belongs to the group of common RSI, however, the question whether or not it is a work related injury is often dubious.
What is CTS?
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve in the wrist is compressed and inflamed. The symptoms include but are not limited to pain in the hand, tingling, numbness, and wrist weakness. There are multiple factors that may contribute to developing this condition, including age, arthritis, gender or anatomic factors. However, certain cases may be associated with particular activities, such as repetitive hand motion, strong gripping, typing, using vibrating tools or awkward hands positioning. All of these create a damaging pressure on the median nerve.
Is carpal tunnel syndrome a work related injury?
Any worker who is required to use their fingers or wrist in a repetitive motion on a regular basis is at high risk of developing CTS. Painters, mechanics, assembly-line workers, cashiers and many other occupations are prone to suffer from this condition at some point. However, it is still an object of debate whether a particular case qualifies as a workplace injury since it has been proven that repetitive motion injuries are not the only cause leading to carpal tunnel syndrome. Factors like obesity, diabetes or prior wrist trauma may cause carpal tunnel syndrome as well. Sometimes, medical evidence along with review of the work environment are necessary in order to determine whether or not a specific case is actually work related. Overall, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that carpal tunnel syndrome has been the leading disability due to the amount of employees that must take time off from work.
There are many ways to treat carpal tunnel syndrome, varying from self-care like putting ice packs on the affected area, to wearing wrist braces and hand splints, attending physical therapy and taking anti-inflammatory medications like aspirin or ibuprofen. If the symptoms persist regardless of the treatment methods, surgery may be necessary. This will take pressure off the median nerve and bring relief to the symptoms.
If you feel you may be suffering from CTS, or to learn more about carpal tunnel syndrome, contact us today.