Carpal tunnel syndrome is the fastest growing occupational disease in the U.S., according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Carpal tunnel syndrome is classified as a repetitive trauma disorder, often occurring in those who work a great deal with their hands. Workers who develop carpal tunnel syndrome should know what steps to take in order to recover workers' compensation benefits in Illinois.
What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition where the large nerve running from the forearm into the palm of the hand, called the media nerve is compressed. The media nerve controls some of the movement of the fingers and thumb, as well as sensations in the palm side of the hand. The carpal tunnel is a narrow passage of eight to 10 tendons at the base of the hand housing the median nerve.
The tendons are enclosed in a synovial sheath, which helps the tendons move smoothly. When the tendons engage in repeated, limited-range movements, the synovial sheath is irritated and fills with fluid and compresses the median nerve.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, symptoms of carpal tunnel include:
Burning, itching, tingling or numbness in the palms and fingers, particularly in the thumb, index and middle fingers
- Feeling of swelling in the fingers, even though fingers are not swollen
- Stiffness in fingers when arising from sleep
- Decreased grip strength
- Extreme cases of carpal tunnel cause thumb muscles to waste away
The symptoms of carpal tunnel often begin gradually and worsen with time unless treated.
Who Is at Risk for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Those who engage in work that requires repetitive hand motions are at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome. The highest number of cases of carpal tunnel syndrome occurs in employees in the following industries:
- Mail service
- Health care
- Assembly line
More cases of carpal tunnel are linked to typing on keyboards, according to the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia, so those who work extensively with computers are at risk for developing the condition.
What Should Injured Workers Do?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a compensable occupational disease under workers' compensation acts. Employees who develop carpal tunnel syndrome from their job duties need to report their conditions to their employers. Additionally, when an employee seeks medical treatment for the condition, he or she needs to tell the health care provider that the condition is a result of work activities so that fact is documented in medical records.
Many insurers deny claims for carpal tunnel syndrome initially, so employees may need to seek legal assistance to secure the workers' compensation benefits they need. If you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome because of your job duties, seek an experienced workers' compensation lawyer who can advise you about what to do.