What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Who Is at Risk?

For employees in assembly line work and others whose work requires the use of their hands, the threat of carpal tunnel syndrome may hit close to home. Like other work-related injuries, employees in New York who suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome because of work duties may be able to file for workers’ compensation.

Many people associate any pain and numbness in the hands with carpal tunnel syndrome, but some individuals may confuse their symptoms with the symptoms of other disorders like tendonitis and bursitis.

People who suffer symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome say they feel persistent itching, tingling or burning in the palm of the hand, thumb, and index and middle fingers. Some suffers say their fingers feel swollen and useless even though swelling is not visibly present. Others may develop a sense of weakness in their hands or may no longer be able to distinguish between hot and cold temperatures.

Many people first notice symptoms after awakening because they sleep with flexed wrists. As the disorder progresses, the tingling or numb feeling may become present during the day and become more constant. Many people try to “shake out” the hand or wrist to alleviate symptoms.

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist. The median nerve runs from the forearm in the palm of the hand through the carpal tunnel, which is a narrow passageway of ligament and bone located at the base of the hand. The median nerve is responsible for controlling sensation for the palm-side of the thumb and first four fingers, but not the little finger. It also controls some small muscles that allow for finger and thumb movement.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is usually the result of a number of factors that create pressure on the median nerve and tendons in the carpal tunnel. It is not caused by a problem with the median nerve itself. One common factor that contributes to carpal tunnel syndrome is the actual size of a person’s carpal tunnel.

Other common factors that contribute to the disorder include injury to the wrist that causes swelling, repeated use of vibrating hand tools, mechanical problems with the wrist joint, rheumatoid arthritis, overactive pituitary gland, cyst or tumor development in the carpal tunnel, fluid retention during pregnancy or menopause and work stress.

Though there is a general belief that repetitive movement of the wrist and hand during work contribute to carpal tunnel, little clinical data supports it. The disorder is most common among workers in manufacturing, meat packing, sewing, finishing and cleaning.

If you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome because of work, contact an experience workers’ compensation attorney to discuss your legal options.