When people think about work injuries, they often imagine unexpected, traumatic events, like a fall from a building or a machinery malfunction. These things do happen and can cause serious worker injuries and even deaths. However, many workers are also injured in less dramatic ways. Repetitive stress or strain injuries can slowly develop over years of work and leave a worker unable to perform the same duties.
One such injury is carpal tunnel syndrome. As a common diagnosis, it is often overlooked as a serious concern. However, carpal tunnel syndrome can limit someone's ability to work, decrease their quality of life and permanently affect their manual strength and dexterity without proper medical intervention.
Who is at risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome?
People in many different fields of work use their hands in repetitive manners all day. Secretaries and office workers may develop carpal tunnel from hours of curling their fingers for typing. However, carpal tunnel doesn't only happen to keyboard warriors. In fact, it is more common among those who perform more strenuous labor with their hands.
This condition is also common among people who perform assembly line work. Those who handle parts in a manufacturing setting, professional sewers, cleaners and meat packers are all at risk for this condition. Even those who drive for long hours could develop carpal tunnel. Higher strain and repeatedly lifting or moving heavier items may result in a quicker development of the condition.
How does carpal tunnel affect your work?
Carpal tunnel syndrome results in pain in the hand and forearm. It often starts in the dominant hand first. The pain starts gradually and then builds up to a burning or tingling pain. Some people experience itching and numbness across the hands and fingers. People often report that their fingers feel swollen. Over time, these symptoms will worsen to reduce someone's grip strength. That can make grabbing objects or using one's hands more difficult.
Obviously, decreased grip strength can affect your ability to perform manual functions. Pain and numbness can also reduce your overall efficiency at work. You simply can't get as much done when you have to repeatedly stop and shake out your hands and wrists for comfort.
Work-related carpal tunnel deserves workers' compensation coverage
Depending on the severity of the carpal tunnel syndrome, treatment options range from rest and physical therapy to surgery in some cases. That may mean you have to miss work while also accruing significant medical expenses.
Thankfully, workers' compensation should cover medical expenses for workers who develop carpal tunnel syndrome due to their jobs. It can also provide temporary income while workers recover and rest.