Treatments and Compensation for Work-Related Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Published: 05th May 2010
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Carpal tunnel syndrome is much more than just a sore wrist; it is an extremely painful and sometimes debilitating condition. Most often, carpal tunnel syndrome is caused and aggravated by the repetitive actions required by job duties, such as using a computer keyboard, operating a cash register or keeping up with quotas on an assembly line.

If workers feel they are unable to take time off and continue working in the same manner week after week, carpal tunnel syndrome can become so severe that loss of hand mobility can occur. Everyday activities like gripping a steering wheel, buttoning a shirt or turning a doorknob can be excruciatingly painful or even worse, impossible because the thumb and fingers simply can no longer function properly.

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the hands, fingers, wrists and forearms are used to perform the same activities over and over again. The repetitive stress on the body causes the tissues in the wrist to swell and they, in turn, put pressure on the median nerve, which runs from the forearm through the wrist and into the palm of the hand. The pressure on the median nerve creates a variety of symptoms in the hand including tingling, burning, shooting pains and numbness. Left untreated, carpal tunnel syndrome can render the fingers and thumb useless.

Carpal tunnel syndrome, in varying degrees of severity, is very common today. Computer users, cashiers and those who perform repetitive work in warehouses and manufacturing facilities are at considerable risk for developing the condition.

Office workers whose symptoms are mild might find some relief in ergonomically correct office furniture and computer accessories. Ergonomics Made Easy and are just two of many companies that sell keyboards, computer mice and other products that claim to help prevent repetitive stress injuries and help those already suffering from conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome work more comfortably.

Both desk workers and non-desk workers might benefit from some of the supportive splints, braces and gloves on the market. These products do everything from completely immobilizing the wrist so that carpal tunnel inflammation may subside to simply applying light, soothing pressure to help alleviate discomfort. Some even come with hot and cold packs for added pain relief.

Prescription drugs and cortisone injections are offered in more severe cases of carpal tunnel syndrome, but over-the-counter pain relievers and herbal remedies also might help. So many people are suffering from the condition today that the grocery chain Publix has devoted an entire page of its website to homeopathic medications.

Exercise is an important factor in preventing and reducing symptoms of mild carpal tunnel syndrome. The Cats Paw ergonomic hand exerciser is advertised as the first non-surgical device for the condition that has received a U.S. patent. No equipment is needed for simple stretching exercises like the ones described here, which stretch the muscles in the hands, wrists and fingers, priming them for repetitive motion activity to help prevent and reduce symptoms of mild to moderate carpal tunnel syndrome.

Of course, no product, medication or exercise will cure carpal tunnel syndrome if the repetitive motions that caused the condition are not ceased, at least temporarily. Workers suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome or other repetitive stress injuries should take time off or be assigned different tasks at their jobs to allow their bodies to heal. As with other work-related injuries, those harmed by repetitive on-the-job activities are entitled to receive
workers' compensation benefits.

Because repetitive stress injuries occur over time instead of instantly, however, it can be hard to prove that they have resulted from one's working conditions or job duties. For this reason, anyone suffering from work-related carpal tunnel syndrome should consult an attorney specializing in workers' compensation.

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