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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in the Workplace

One of the most common and most debilitating workplace injuries is not caused by one catastrophic event but hours upon hours of repetitive motions instead. Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), a cumulative trauma disorder, affects millions of Americans each year. While the causes may vary, the general consensus is that carpal tunnel syndrome most often affects workers who perform intricate manual tasks regularly.

What Exactly is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Within your wrist is a system of bones, tendons, ligaments, and a median nerve – these are all bundled and enclosed together in what is known as the carpal tunnel. When you use your hand, the tendons move, pull, and can twist. Infrequent overuse is not usually a problem but using your hand for intricate tasks day in and day out can cause tendon inflammation and swelling. In turn, the swelling puts pressure on the median nerve, causing a numbness in the hand, sharp pain at certain angles, and a general weakness in the hand and wrist. These symptoms collectively are carpal tunnel syndrome.

People with carpal tunnel can experience:

  • Constant tingling in fingers
  • Difficulty holding and lifting even small items
  • Chronic pain, especially at the end of the day
  • Total debilitation in the hand

What Can Cause Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

If a repeated and consistent intricate hand motions cause carpal tunnel syndrome, it must be known what constitutes an intricate hand motion.

Some common workplace tasks that can put stress or duress on your wrist include:

  • Operating a cash register
  • Typing on a keyboard
  • Flipping through pages or papers
  • Kneading dough or chopping ingredients
  • Holding and turning a steering wheel
  • Keeping a strong grip (on a tool)

Of course, any motion that involves your wrist could potentially cause harm to your wrist, but it is intricate, delicate motions over time that cause carpal tunnel syndrome. A sudden wrist injury may be devastating but it may not cause the same gradual and lingering harm of CTS.

What Can Help or Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Like all workplace injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome can be prevented, or noticeably alleviated if it has already developed. It is just a matter of management taking proper steps to ensure that their workers are well cared for and provided safety equipment that can protect them.

Some techniques, methods, and tools that can help lessen CTS are:

  • Enforcing brief but frequent rests
  • Requiring hand stretches throughout the day
  • Attaching ergonomic handles to certain manual tools
  • Rotating among different types of tasks, if possible

If an employer does not make any reasonable strides to stop workers from developing painful carpal tunnel syndrome, they may be responsible for the harm in some way. To this end, workers’ compensation benefits should be provided to any employee that suffers from carpal tunnel syndrome as a direct result of the regular job duties and tasks.

If you need workers’ compensation due to CTS preventing you from working without pain, contact Humphrey & Associates to connect with one of our Orange County workers’ compensation attorneys. We can hear your claim for free during an initial consultation, help you create a workers’ compensation filing, or protect your rights if your claim has already been denied.