Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common problem that afflicts up to six percent of Americans. It is a source of significant pain for its sufferers, and carpal tunnel syndrome can even cause permanent damage and disability if left untreated.
Carpal tunnel syndrome has an important connection to the world of workers’ compensation because of its link to repetitive workplace activities. Below is more information about carpal tunnel syndrome, its relationship to workers’ compensation and what you should know about your rights under the law.
An Introduction to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a disorder of the wrist and hand and is caused by pressure on the median nerve. The bones of the wrist and transverse carpal ligament form a narrow passageway (tunnel) at the boundary between the wrist and hand; the median nerve, along with several tendons and blood vessels, pass through this tunnel.
Since there is little room for movement within the carpal tunnel, as this passageway is known, any type of swelling or disruption can put pressure on the median nerve. The median nerve carries signals of touch and also impacts the movement of the muscles adjacent to the thumb.
Because of its size and prominence, the median nerve can become a pathway for pain, numbness and other abnormal sensations if compressed. Over time, the negative effects caused by nerve compression can become permanent; that is why early treatment becomes important.
The Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
There are a number of contributing factors that can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. Some of these include illnesses that cause swelling in the tissues surrounding the median nerve, such as diabetes and arthritis. Other causes of carpal tunnel syndrome include fractures or other damage to bones inside the wrist.
However, one of the leading causes of carpal tunnel syndrome is a workplace-related injury. Several workplace activities can create swelling around the median nerve, including the use of vibrating equipment or tools that require repetitive hand motion.
For example, the consistent use of a pavement breaker can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome in some individuals. For other workers, activities such as turning a wrench on an assembly line may be a prime cause of carpal tunnel syndrome. Even less-strenuous activity such as typing can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome in some individuals.
What You Should Do if You Experience Symptoms
If you experience symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, it is important to address them quickly in order to prevent long-term injury. It is also important to begin the process of pursuing relief through workers’ compensation, should you have reason to suspect that your symptoms are a result of your workplace activity.
Most states will grant you rights under workers’ compensation law if you are diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome and if it is determined that your work is responsible for your condition. However, be aware that other conditions will probably need to be excluded as a cause.
For example, if you have a past history of wrist injury or a disease that causes swelling, then your employer’s insurance carrier will likely contest your claim to workers’ compensation benefits. In addition, participation in other non-work activities, such as sports or hobbies, may also lead to a challenge by the insurance company.
Of course, should it be determined that your workplace activity is the cause of your carpal tunnel syndrome, then your diagnosis and treatment will be paid by workers’ compensation insurance. In addition, you may be due to other benefits, such as short-term or even long-term disability payments if you are unable to perform your job.
Workers’ compensation is complex, and it often pays to obtain legal advice and counsel. If you find yourself experiencing difficulties in navigating your claim for carpal tunnel syndrome or if an employer or insurance company isn’t treating you fairly, then don’t delay in getting help. Contact Stafford, Neal & Soule for assistance, and they will seek to protect your legal rights and get you the help you deserve.