Workplace Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome, also known as repetitive stress syndrome, is one of the most common on-the-job injuries in Massachusetts. While it may seem minor, it can cause permanent disability. Workers who suffer from workplace carpal tunnel syndrome injuries may not be able to return to their chosen occupation. Workers may also require multiple surgeries, wrist and hand braces, and medications for the rest of their lives.
What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome happens because the worker makes the same motions over and over again for a long period of time. The median nerve runs from the forearm into the fingers. It goes through a small tunnel within the area that is surrounded by bone. Workplace carpal tunnel syndrome happens when the median nerve is compressed or pinched by swollen tendons.
What Are the Symptoms of Workplace Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Massachusetts workplace carpal tunnel syndrome injuries at work can be extremely painful. Some of the symptoms of this condition include:
- Numbness or weakness in the hand or wrist
- Pain in the hand or wrist
- The numbness, weakness, or pain may get worse during use of the affected hand or wrist
- Dull aching pain in the forearm
- Stiff feeling in the fingers
- Inability to hold onto objects
- Inability to pinch objects with the thumb and index finger
How Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Diagnosed?
The diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome is done by medical professionals. There is no one standard test to determine if the condition exists. Instead, the medical professional looks at the symptoms and may use certain tests to confirm the diagnosis.
During the physical exam, the medical professional will examine sensitivity and how well the affected hand and wrist can operate. The injured worker may also be subjected to electrodiagnostic (EDX) testing or ultrasonography.
However, EDX and ultrasonography cannot be used on their own for a diagnosis. While they can look at the internal area that is likely affected, they cannot look specifically at the sensitivity of the area or measure the ability of the worker to continue to use the hand and wrist.
Common physical tests include Phalen’s maneuver, Tinel’s sign, Durkan test and the hand elevation test. The idea with some of these tests is for the medical professional to attempt to recreate the numbness and other sensory-based symptoms. Often, those symptoms are more severe than pain, although pain may be a presenting symptom.
How Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treated?
There are several treatments available for carpal tunnel syndrome. The severity of the condition will determine how the treatment will proceed. Treatment can be conservative and include simply splints or physical therapy. It can also include steroid injections or prescriptions, use of medication to receive symptoms, and surgery.
The amount of time it may take for the worker to experience relief or full recovery depends on the type of treatment as well as the initial severity of the condition.
Which Work Activities Are Most Likely to Cause Workplace Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
As mentioned earlier, carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by repetitive movements. It’s not a condition that is limited to those who work in an office in an administrative setting. The following work activities can cause carpal tunnel to develop:
- You work with rope, cloth, tape or another material that you wrap or bind with
- You spend most of your day typing, filing away physical documents, stocking shelves, or you make some sort of other repetitive motion every day
- The work that you do affects wrist or hand posture (or both) in a way that causes stress on the joints
- You use your hands in the same way for most or all of your workday
- What you do requires you to rely on constrained movements such as a pinching motion or very small movements of the hands and wrists for accuracy
- You fell on the job and fractured your wrist
- Your job requires you to grip items for long periods of time
- You use vibrating or oscillating tools
- You extend and flex your hands and wrists for the majority of the day