Most people injure themselves at work with the occurrence of one incident — they strain their back lifting a box, twist their knee pushing a cart, or tear the rotator cuff in their shoulder emptying trash. Sometimes, however, work-related injuries are caused gradually by the repetitive movements of a worker doing their job.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common “repetitive trauma” claims in the workers’ compensation world. As we have learned from doctors while handling workers’ comp. cases, the median nerve runs from your forearms into your wrists. Repetitive activity with one or both of your hands can cause the median nerve to compress which results in a variety of symptoms, including pain and numbness to your forearms, wrists, hands, and fingers, as well as weakness in your hands.
You may be susceptible to contracting carpal tunnel if you have a job that requires you to use your hands and arms throughout the day, performing repetitive tasks. Some examples include:
If you have one of these jobs – or any other job in which you are repetitively using your hands and arms – and experience the symptoms we have described, such as pain, numbness, and weakness, you may have carpal tunnel syndrome which should be treated by a doctor. It’s important for you to notify your supervisor when you first feel these symptoms. Describe when the symptoms began, whether your symptoms are to one of your hands or both, and how the symptoms are affecting your ability to do your job. You may be asked to complete an incident report in which you provide all these details in writing. If you feel like you need medical attention, your supervisor or an HR representative should send you to one of the company’s workers’ comp. doctors for an evaluation. That doctor may impose restrictions, such as light-duty work with no repetitive use of your hands. If that happens, you should provide these restrictions to your supervisor who may or may not be able to make work available to you within those restrictions.
The company’s workers’ comp. doctor may refer you to an orthopedic surgeon, who specializes in treating hand and wrist injuries conditions, including carpal tunnel. Orthopedic surgeons rely heavily on a nerve study called an EMG to diagnose carpal tunnel. This test can detect whether you have carpal tunnel, and if so the degree – mild, moderate, or severe. If it’s mild, the doctor will likely recommend conservative treatment, such as medication and physical therapy, but if you are diagnosed with moderate or severe carpal tunnel, the doctor may recommend injections and, if your symptoms persist, surgery — a carpal tunnel release in which pressure on the median nerve is released. If the surgery is successful, you may be able to return to your job after a period of several weeks or months.
You will be entitled to workers’ comp. benefits if your carpal tunnel was caused by your work activities on a repetitive basis. If your carpal tunnel prevented you from doing your job and your employer did not provide you with a light-duty job within your restrictions, you will be entitled to wage loss benefits to compensate you while you’re disabled and recovering from your carpal tunnel injury. You will also be entitled to payment of your medical bills – for your doctors’ visits, medication, physical therapy, injections, and surgery.
But we have to caution you – employers and workers’ comp. insurance companies are not quick to accept repetitive trauma carpal tunnel claims. There are many risk factors for carpal tunnel – diabetes, obesity, and arthritis, for example – and insurance companies frequently try to blame a a person’s carpal tunnel on one or more non-work-related factors in order to get out of paying you workers’ comp. benefits.
If the insurance company denies your workers’ comp. claim for carpal tunnel, you will need a knowledgeable, experienced workers’ comp. lawyer to file a petition on your behalf and represent you before the Workers’ Compensation Judge. Pearson Koutcher Law is devoted exclusively to representing injured workers in workers’ comp. claims. We have handled countless carpal tunnel claims over the years and have achieved great results for our clients. So if you have been diagnosed with carpal tunnel, and you think that your job caused this condition, please contact Pearson Koutcher Law right away. We will evaluate your claim, answer all of your questions, and take any necessary legal action on your behalf. We know that carpal tunnel is a painful, debilitating condition, and we’re here to fight for you.