Josh Gets Results for injured workers
Photo of Attorney Josh Borken

How a Workplace Can Aggravate Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

On Behalf of | Aug 27, 2018 | Workers' Compensation

For people who struggle with carpal tunnel syndrome, even doing the simplest everyday tasks, such as buttoning a shirt, can be challenging. Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a condition that affects nerves in the hand in which the median nerve becomes squeezed when passing through the wrist. In addition to causing pain and achiness, CTS can produce numbness and a tingling sensation.  Although it’s not life-threatening, it can compromise your lifestyle when ignored. In the most severe cases, damage from the median nerve can lead to person’s affected hand becoming immobile.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is often work-related because of having to do repetitive movements. If your job involves doing repetitive hand and wrist movements, and you suspect you may have this condition, here’s how a workplace can aggravate carpal tunnel syndrome and how a workers’ compensation lawyer can help you.

Common Professions at Risk and How a Workplace Can Cause CTS

One of the main causes of CTS symptoms is from repetitive movements of the wrist and hand. For example:

  • Typists and other office workers are some of the professions that are the most likely to get CTS from using a computer mouse and keyboards.
  • Painters who repeatedly use spray guns can suffer from CTS.
  • Cashiers who use laser scanners to check-out merchandise can easily come down with CTS.
  • Assembly-line workers are at risk as they continuously handle items on conveyor belts
  • Farmers can develop CTS from the repetitive hand and wrist movements involved in milking cows.
  • Locksmiths are vulnerable because they turn keys repetitively.
  • Mechanics use screwdrivers and push down ratchets, making them susceptible.
  • Factory workers who wear tight gloves can develop symptoms as this can cause compression on the median nerve.
  • Carpenters are also at risk from using tools.

Other People Most at Risk for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Besides developing CTS from workplace conditions, you can get this problem from other factors. Many people believe that CTS is inherited, but it isn’t a condition that’s transferred directly down from one generation to the next one. On the other hand, CTS tends to run in families. This is probably because there are a few risk factors that contain genetic factors. For example, people who inherit small wrists are more likely to develop CTS. Other people who are more at risk include:

  • Diabetics—Consider that diabetes typically comes with neuropathy. This causes the carpal tunnel to be more vulnerable to compressing normally.
  • Women—Females develop carpal tunnel syndrome at twice the rate of men, mainly because of estrogen. Pregnant women can be especially at risk as fluid can build up in their wrist which can cause compression of the median nerve, which triggers CTS symptoms.
  • Postmenopausal women who take aromatase medications for breast cancer treatments can get CTS.
  • Middle-aged and elderly people are more at risk, although CTS can affect people at all stages of life.
  • Obese people are more susceptible to CTS.
  • Hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) can lead to CTS as a result of fluids accumulating in the carpal tunnel as well as other parts of the body, which can put pressure on the nerve.
  • People with rheumatoid arthritis are also more likely to have CTS.

Preventing CTS

Even though sometimes CTS can’t be prevented, you can take certain precautionary measures to make it less probable you’ll have this condition.

  • While sitting at your computer station, position your wrist in a neutral position. Have your elbows at a right (90-degree) angle with your shoulders relaxed.
  • Use less force with gripping a mouse or typing.
  • Don’t lean on your wrist or on the heel of your hand.
  • Have your wrists and hands aligned with your forearms, holding your elbows near your sides.
  • Speak with a human resources department agent if you believe that particular work functions are causing pain or numbness in the wrist, hand or fingers.
  • Ask your employer if there are other ways in which you can do your work, such as making changes in job equipment.
  • Restrict salt consumption as this can cause fluid retention.

Considerations and Warnings

  • Often, CTS develops slowly and includes early symptoms, such as tingling in the ring, index and middle finger or even the thumb, in some cases. Numbness when driving a vehicle can be another sign.
  • Symptoms are generally worse at night.
  • Usually, CTS can be treated without needing surgery. Nonsurgical treatments may include rest, using diuretics and steroid shots.
  • In more severe cases, CTS requires surgery, which is a procedure known as carpal tunnel release. This procedure involves a surgeon cutting through the ligament, giving it more room for tendons and the median nerve.

Fortunately, Minnesota workers’ compensation covers CTS. If you have CTS that’s related to your workplace, don’t hesitate to call the Law Office of Joshua Borken. We do everything possible to ensure that you receive financial compensation for medical expenses, wage losses and get permanency and rehabilitation benefits. Please contact us and find out more about how we can help you.