What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful disorder of the hand and wrist that is caused when pressure is placed on the median nerve in the carpal tunnel of your hand. Essentially, your median nerve becomes "entrapped" resulting in symptoms in your hands. The median nerve controls the feeling in your thumb, index finger, middle finger and ring finger. It does not control your pinkie finger. Carpal tunnel syndrome is an extremely common repetitive motion injury suffered by Pennsylvania Workers.
In our workers' compensation practice we see many different types of workers diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome. Common examples of workers that are prone to suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome include:
- Assembly line worker
- Auto mechanics
- Factory worker
- People using computers throughout the work day
What are symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome?
Because of the nature of the injury, symptoms will often begin over time. Doing things like picking up the phone, or a gallon of milk can trigger the pain in your hands. Buttoning a shirt, or tying a tie can become difficult and the pain will usually cause you to shake your hands trying to shake the discomfort away. Common symptoms include:
- Hand weakness
- Numbness and pain in your hands and fingers
- "Pins and Needles" feeling in hands and fingers
- Difficulty picking objects up
- Tingling in all fingers (except pinkie) that radiates up your arm
If you are suffering from these symptoms and believe that your condition is work related, you should provide immediate notice to your employer and ask for a list of panel physicians to seek treatment. Only a medical professional can properly diagnose your problem and tell you if you are indeed suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome.
How is carpal tunnel syndrome treated?
The proposed treatment an injured worker will receive after being properly diagnosed with carpal tunnel will vary depending on the severity of the carpal tunnel syndrome they are suffering from. Common treatment includes:
- Physical or Occupational therapy
- Wearing braces or splints to immobilize your hands and wrists
- Use of anti-inflammatory drugs (such as aspirin or ibuprofen)
- Resting of your hands and arms
- Steroid or cortisone injections
Very often your doctor will begin your course of treatment with conservative treatment, and surgery will usually become an option after all conservative treatment options fail to provide relief.