Carpal tunnel syndrome is a nerve disorder of the wrist. It’s common in office workers and employees whose jobs involve repetitive hand motions.
The carpal tunnel is a small passageway in the wrist lined by several fine bones. A ligament called the transverse carpal ligament arches over the bones and protects the median nerve. The median nerve is the primary nerve extending down into the thumb, index and middle fingers, and half of the ring finger.
Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
When the wrist, fingers, or hand is constantly used for repetitive motions such as twisting, abnormal bending, or persistent striking, the ligament can become strained and press against the median nerve. Compression of the median nerve causes pain and discomfort in the hand and fingers.
Common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include acute or chronic pain, tingling, numbness, burning, or prickling sensations. Affected workers may have difficulty gripping, holding tools, using a computer mouse, typing, or other similar tasks. Occupations most commonly associated with carpal tunnel syndrome are:
- Computer/data entry workers
- Factory assembly line workers
- Professional drivers, including truck and bus drivers
Workers’ Compensation and Carpal Tunnel Disability
Carpal tunnel is recognized as a legitimate on-the-job injury. Workers affected by carpal tunnel syndrome have a right to make a workers’ compensation claim. Workers’ comp benefits generally include reimbursement for medical and therapy bills, out-of-pocket expenses (medications, splints, etc.), and two-thirds of lost wages.
Unlike many on-the-job injuries that are quickly apparent, carpal tunnel syndrome is a progressive injury and can take months, even years, before any symptoms appear. If you experience symptoms and want to seek medical care, you must notify your employer as soon as possible after the onset of your symptoms.
The workers’ compensation process begins when you complete a “first report of injury” form. The form has several questions concerning the date, time, and nature of your injury. With carpal tunnel syndrome, you need to give an approximate date when you first started noticing your symptoms.
Once you’ve reported your injury, your employer or workers’ comp representative will give you a list of company-approved physicians. You choose one to be your primary treating physician. Your physician may be able to diagnose and treat your carpal tunnel disability after a physical examination, or he may refer you to a specialist, such as an orthopedist, rheumatologist, neurologist, or osteopath.
An electromyogram (EMG) nerve conduction study is a diagnostic tool frequently used to identify carpal tunnel syndrome. It measures the response time of muscles from a series of quick electrical pulses given to the nerve. The study is conducted by attaching several metal electrodes to the skin with tape, and a shock-emitting electrode placed directly over the nerve. This painless test may take 15 minutes to an hour.
Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome includes wearing a hand splint to prevent the wrist from twisting and bending, drug therapy to reduce inflammation (ibuprofen and naproxen) and reduce swelling (corticosteroids), and in the most serious cases, endoscopic surgery on the ligament around the median nerve.
At some point during treatment, your physician will determine when you’ve reached a level of maximum medical improvement (MMI). This is when further treatment will not improve your condition. Your physician bases MMI on his findings and the prognoses of your other treating physicians. When you reach MMI, your physician issues a return to work form that states whether or not you can return to your former job.
If your carpal tunnel is diagnosed as a temporary total disability, you may be able to resume your former job duties, but only after additional time for healing. In the interim, your physician may clear you to work at another job that accommodates your disability.
If your physician believes you have lasting, debilitating damage from your carpal tunnel disability, you may be diagnosed with a permanent partial disability. This means you can’t return to your previous job, or any other job which requires the use of your wrist, hand, or other affected areas.
With a permanent partial disability, you should receive a lump sum settlement from workers’ compensation in addition to payments for your medical and therapy bills, out-of-pocket expenses, and lost wages. The amount of the lump sum award is set by your state’s workers’ comp administration.
Settlement Pursued for Carpal Tunnel
In this workers’ comp case, the plaintiff, a secretary, is seeking damages from her employer for wrist injuries, including Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
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Visitor Questions on Common Types of Work Injuries
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I worked in a library for almost 20 years and now have carpal-tunnel. I have had 3 surgeries on one hand and 2 on the other between 2012 and 2014. I retired from my job in February 2012. I am now going to need another surgery on my hand. My question is, what can I... Read More.
I have carpal tunnel syndrome. I have been dealing with this problem for a year and a month now. I saw an approved Workers’ Comp doctor. I was x-rayed, examined and told that I had carpal tunnel. They did the electrode test to confirm it. My right hand is worse than my left according to... Read More.
I worked in St. Paul Alaska in 2011 as a processor. My job description was processing crabs and I was assigned at the dock to operate the hopper. An erroneous action of another employee led to my hand getting caught in the hopper, leading to wrist bone injury. I underwent carpal tunnel and subsequently a... Read More.
I have been a dental assistant for 18 years at the same place. I have been experiencing pain in my fingers/hands/wrists for quite some time now. Doctors said it was tendinitis. I finally had swelling in my wrist and the doctor took me seriously. I do have carpal tunnel, tendinitis, and arthritis with bone spurs.... Read More.
I work at a glove company that manufactures hospital gloves all over the USA. One night I was pulling chlorine gloves that are very hard to pull off the machine and all of a sudden my left hand just popped. Pain just started shooting through it bad. I went to my foreman and he made... Read More.
I was injured on the job, I got carpal tunnel from work and reported it in 2010. I then retired from my job for various medical reasons – the carpal tunnel being one of them. I am now waiting for a decision from total disability SSI (Supplemental Security Income). When I retired I still had... Read More.
I’ve been a nursing assistant for 8 years. In my job I turn, lift, balance and do many other physical duties for my patients. Back in January I woke up in the middle of the night with extreme stabbing pains and tingling sensations going down both arms to the tips of my fingers. I couldn’t... Read More.
I have been working for federal government for 13 years and worked in the same industry for 27 years. I now have carpal tunnel. My question is: Can I still keep working and draw my salary, plus get compensation for having carpal tunnel? Read More.
What are the top questions that should be asked of the plaintiff’s doctor in a workers compensation hearing for carpal tunnel (caused by work activities – keyboarding)? Thank you. Read More.
I was having pains in my wrist and numbness in my hands before I was terminated from my job. But I have not worked since I was let go and it has been 30 days. My question is: Would I be eligible for a settlement after being diagnosed with carpal tunnel, even though I have... Read More.
I’m asking for my husband, he has been an insulator with the union for 28 years and 5 months ago started having severe pain in his hand and numbness too. When he went to the doctor he was told he had carpal tunnel in both hands. He has been on workers comp for 4 months... Read More.
I got carpal tunnel from duties on the job. I reported it to my supervisor and filled out accident report, but I continued to remain at work. My symptoms became worse so I ended up going to see the workers comp doctor. I had the carpal tunnel release done in April 2. I have no... Read More.