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What jobs have the highest risk for carpal tunnel syndrome?

Most people use their hands so much at work, the idea of not using them is like not breathing. Most jobs involve so much pressing, grabbing, twisting, pushing and pulling that we don't give our hands a second thought until something forces us to think about them.

Carpal tunnel can force you to think about how much you use your hands at work. It's marked by burning, numbness and tingling in the hand and fingers, and it can even move up into the forearm. The pain and discomfort can interfere with your ability to work, and people commonly apply for workers' compensation as they try to recover.

Occupational injury to the hands can result from activities that include:

  • Power gripping
  • Forceful flexing and/or extension of the wrist
  • Intense handtool usage
  • Twisting and torquing of the wrist
  • Exposure to vibration such as airguns or pneumatic devices
  • Jackhammers

How your job may contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome

If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, the burning, aching and tingling in your hand owe to the fact your median nerve is pinched within your wrist. There's no single reason your nerve may get pinched, but a fact sheet hosted by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke suggests that multiple factors can contribute, including:

  • Injury or trauma to the wrist
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Disorders of the pituitary or thyroid glands

The strain caused by repetitive work motions can also play a large part in the development of carpal tunnel. As a result, workers in some jobs are far more likely to suffer. In late 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study that ranked the industries most at risk for carpal tunnel:

  • Textile and fabric finishing
  • Apparel manufacturing
  • Animal processing
  • Public administration

These jobs tend to involve a lot of repetitive hand and wrist motions, but they're not the only jobs in which you can swell your wrist and squeeze your median nerve. No matter where you work, you may need to think about reducing the strain on your wrist.

How to prevent and live with carpal tunnel syndrome

The CDC concluded its report with a discussion of its findings, noting that the industries most at risk for carpal tunnel had the most reason to take steps to reduce their risks. These steps can include:

  • Frequent rest breaks to reduce strain
  • Work devices and stations that encourage correct posture and motion
  • Stretching exercises
  • Tools and devices to reduce the need for strenuous activities

Depending on the severity of your carpal tunnel, you may be able to reduce your pains by taking some simple steps:

  • Sleep with a snug wrist splint
  • Take frequent breaks
  • Stretch and rotate your wrists
  • Use pain relievers like aspirin or ibuprofen

However, these tricks may not reduce the swelling in your wrist or remove the pressure from your median nerve. In severe cases, you may need a surgeon to slice a ligament in your wrist to relieve the pressure. While the release of pressure is almost immediate, you will likely need time to recover. If your carpal tunnel resulted from job-related activities, you can apply for workers' compensation. The process can be difficult, but an experienced attorney can help you pursue your benefits and gain relief from your aches and pains.

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