More than eight million people are impacted by carpal tunnel syndrome each year. What exactly is this syndrome, what causes it, and how is it treated?
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: The Facts
Carpal tunnel syndrome is also known as median nerve compression. The median nerve runs the entire length of the arm and controls sensation and movement in the thumb and first three fingers (not the “pinky” finger). At the wrist, the median nerve runs through a small space known as the carpal tunnel.
The carpal tunnel is aptly named, as in the wrist exists a “tunnel” created by tissues including ligaments, muscles, and bone. It is through this tunnel that the median nerve reaches through into the palm of the hand and extends into the fingers. A number of situations can cause this space or tunnel to narrow, putting pressure on the median nerve and causing patients to experience a number of uncomfortable symptoms.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is the result of repetitive motion that causes the tissue around the median nerve to become inflamed. This can be from a number of activities but is commonly seen in people who do a lot of typing or other work that requires the use of their hands.
Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include:
- Numbness or tingling in hands and/or fingers
- Pain on the underside of the wrist (where the Carpal Tunnel is located)
- Burning sensations in hands/wrist, often “phantom” (without an actual source of heat to cause them)
- Weak hands or fingers, particularly when gripping objects
These sensations could be just in the hand or could travel up the entire length of the arm. Additionally, many people suffering from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome report that symptoms are worse at night.
What Causes Carpal Tunnel?
There are many causes of carpal tunnel syndrome, including:
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Hypothyroidism (or other thyroid problems)
- Repetitive motions (overuse of hands and wrists)
- Pregnancy (due to increased fluid retention)
- Trauma to the wrist, such as fractures or sprains, can cause swelling in the area
As you can see above, there is no single cause of carpal tunnel. Furthermore, carpal tunnel syndrome is often the result of a combination of factors rather than just one. For example, someone who has diabetes may be more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome if they also have a job that requires them to do repetitive motions with their hands.
Broadly speaking, a substantial number of CTS cases in Pennsylvania are caused by the repetitive motions that are performed daily by dedicated and hard-working employees. Unfortunately, most of these individuals are unaware that their jobs can leave them with painful carpal tunnel.
Industries Where Workers Are Commonly Diagnosed With Carpal Tunnel
Industries where workers are frequently diagnosed with carpal tunnel include:
- Assembly line work
- Computer/keyboard-based industries
- Laundry & Dry Cleaning
The symptoms that are associated with carpal tunnel syndrome can severely impact an employee’s ability to do their job, both temporarily and permanently.
How Is Carpal Tunnel Treated?
The treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome varies from patient to patient and may include:
- Medication: Anti-inflammatories and steroids are common medications prescribed for this condition.
- Physical Therapy: Exercises and stretches can help to alleviate the symptoms.
- Immobilization: A splint or brace may be issued to a patient.
- Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be required.
Ultimately, lifestyle and career changes could be required.
If you are struggling to recover compensation through workers’ comp for carpal tunnel syndrome, it could be time to seek a consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.