Carpal tunnel syndrome, an injury which affects the wrist and hands, continues to be one of the most commonly reported work-related injuries. The carpal tunnel is a narrow area of the wrist through which the median nerve and tendons pass from the arm into the hand. Repetitive motion or injury can cause this area to swell, putting pressure on the nerve and tendons, and causing carpal tunnel syndrome. Syndrome sufferers experience symptoms in the affected hand and wrist ranging from varying degrees of pain, reduced range of motion, tingling and/or loss of feeling, and even a total or near-total inability to use the affected hand altogether. As nearly every job function requires the use of the hands, often in repetitive motions like keyboard or tool use, this injury is responsible for an exceptionally large number of injuries in the work place. With so many workers facing this potentially debilitating injury, it can be helpful to understand what treatment options are available.
Rest is often the first treatment option for carpal tunnel syndrome. Obviously, this means to limit the use of the affected hand/wrist so that swelling can be reduced. This includes temporarily or permanently discontinuing any work which has led to or exacerbates the injury. Additionally, updating the workplace with ergonomic tools and processes can help limit continued or future injuries.
Concurrent with rest, application of ice and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) may be advised. Both can help reduce inflammation and pain. However, even over-the-counter NSAID’s, like aspirin, should be used only with a doctor’s supervision, as they can irritate the stomach, exacerbate other medical problems, and even cause organ damage if overused.
Arm and wrist splints are another option. They provide added support to help reduce strain on the wrist, as well as keep the wrist straight, reducing pressure on the median nerve and tendons.
Corticoid steroid injections may be used to temporarily reduce swelling and symptoms from carpal tunnel syndrome. Like NSAID’s, corticoid steroids can cause side-effects and are contraindicated for those with certain illnesses. Therefore, they are not recommended for everyone.
When carpal tunnel syndrome is so severe that non-surgical options fail to reduce symptoms, surgery may be advised. This procedure, known as carpal tunnel release, involves cutting the tissue which forms the carpal tunnel. This helps release pressure against the median nerve and tendons, thereby reducing the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. While this surgery is often very successful, residual pain, numbness or tingling can continue, particularly if the person has suffered from long-term carpal tunnel syndrome. After surgery, physical therapy may help improve strength as well as teach safer use of the arm, wrist and hand to prevent further damage.
Carpal tunnel syndrome not only reduces a worker’s ability to earn a paycheck, it also can be painfully expensive to treat. However, if you believe your carpal tunnel syndrome has been caused by work activities, you may covered under workers’ compensation. Contact an Illinois workers compensation lawyer to learn if you are eligible for this benefit.
About the Author: Brooke Haley is a Marketing Associate at Millon & Peskin, Chicago workers compensation lawyers that practice in the areas of Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury. Millon & Peskin is a General Civil Litigation Practice with the goal of representing the interests of injured workers, throughout all applicable Courts in the State of Illinois. For more information about Illinois workers compensation attorney,please visit www.millonpeskin.com.