In a previous post, our blog discussed how every year thousands of workers in all types of industries are diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition typically characterized by pain, weakness and/or general numbness in the hands that can seriously affect a person's ability to perform their job.
To recap, the carpal tunnel is a small tube comprised of ligaments and bone that is located at the base of the hand. Its biological purpose is to protect the median nerve, which enables a person to move/feel their fingers and thumb.
When a person experiences pressure on the median nerve, a diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome typically follows. In general, this pressure is caused by the thickening of the transverse carpal ligament, which serves to narrow the tube and squeeze the median nerve.
Medical professionals indicate that those diagnosed with the condition can often be effectively treated with physical therapy, a hand splint, and/or a regimen of anti-inflammatory drugs. However, when these remedies prove ineffective and symptoms persist for at least six months, surgical intervention may prove necessary.
While the prospect of surgical intervention may seem slightly unnerving to workers who fear being unable to return to work for several months, medical professionals indicate that this fear is perhaps unfounded.
To illustrate, many injured workers can undergo minimally invasive endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery to help relieve pressure on the median nerve.
The procedure, which can last for as little as 15 minutes, involves the surgeon making a tiny incision of only about 1 centimeter along the base of the patient's palm. After this completed, a thin, flexible tube containing both a camera (endoscope) and a surgical blade is guided through the incision.
The surgeon will use these tiny tools to cut the transverse carpal ligament. While this may seem like a drastic step, it will actually serve to relieve the aforementioned pressure on the median nerve. Once the surgery is completed, the patient is typically free to go home.
Medical professionals indicate that the pain/numbness/weakness may disappear immediately after surgery or gradually dissipate over time. The ability to return to work, they say, varies according to a multitude of factors, including the type of work performed, whether the surgery was performed on the dominant hand, and the individual patient's commitment to a physical therapy regimen. However, recovery time is typically measured in days or weeks, as opposed to months.
In summary, workers suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome should take comfort in the fact that they have viable medical options at their disposal, and that they can be back at their desks, construction sites or assembly lines in a relatively short amount of time.
Those who suffer debilitating injuries on the job here in Chicago should strongly consider speaking with an experienced attorney about their rights and their options concerning workers' compensation.
Source: The Columbus Ledger Enquirer, "New carpal tunnel surgery 'minimally invasive'," Larry Gierer, Nov. 4, 2013; WebMD, "Endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome," Oct. 2010