When most people hear the phrase "workplace injuries," they might picture machinery accidents or falls involving hazardous factory railings or floors. However, injuries with a subtle and gradual onset, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, are also common contributors in workers' compensation cases.
What Is Carpal Tunnel?
Repetitive hand motions at work can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition marked by an increase in pressure on the median nerve in the wrist. The nerve travels from your hand and up your arm, following a narrow path called the carpal tunnel.
What Are the Symptoms?
The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include a gradual increase in pain, tingling, or even numbness in your hand – typically affecting your thumb and fingers, excluding the pinky. While these sensations might initially be apparent at night, they'll also occur during the day as the condition progresses. Pain will further increase, in some cases traveling all the way up the arm to the shoulder.
Over time, muscle strength is impacted, and you might have a hard time gripping items or performing simple gestures like clinching a fist.
Ways to Treat
Treatment options for carpal tunnel syndrome will depend on the severity and progression of the condition.
If symptoms are noticed early, you should simply give your hands a break while at work. Switch from the repetitive task to a different activity, allowing your hands time to rest. Apply a cold compress if the condition is causing swelling.
In mild cases, wrist splinting is a nonsurgical therapy option. A wrist splint can be used to straighten your hand as your sleep, reducing pressure on your median nerve. A doctor might also give you a corticosteroid injection to reduce swelling near the nerve.
In extreme cases, surgery is an option. A surgeon can cut the ligament that's putting pressure on the median nerve. The ligament will eventually heal in such a way that pressure is decreased.
With all of this in mind, it should be easy to see how conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome can eventually play a role in workers' compensation claims.