Many jobs involve repetitive use of the hands or arms. This upper limb overuse can cause repetitive stress (or strain) injuries (RSI), which can range in severity from mild to debilitating. When a work-related RSI like carpal tunnel syndrome prevents work altogether or performing your current job, you should file a claim for Illinois workers’ compensation benefits.
Most people are aware that workers’ compensation covers injuries resulting from one-time accidents and occupational diseases, but because jobs requiring repetitive motion over time can cause serious RSIs, those injuries also qualify workers for benefits, so long as the RSI arose out of the job in the course of work.
According to U.S. News and World Report, about 1 of every 20 adults gets carpal tunnel.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is often work-related
Most people think of carpal tunnel syndrome if asked for an example of an RSI. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs if the median nerve is pinched where it passes through the wrist – through the “carpal tunnel” – causing sometimes severe pain, jolting pain, tingling, weakness, burning and numbness, especially in the thumb and fingers, but also traveling up the arm. In addition, thumb muscles can atrophy and shrink.
Limitations that can impact the ability to work include difficulty performing fine motor tasks and inability to grasp resulting in dropping objects.
Women and older workers are more susceptible and other risk factors include genetics, pregnancy, diabetes, thyroid problems and rheumatoid arthritis. But work-related carpal tunnel results mainly from repetitive hand and wrist movements in work tasks, especially when the positioning during movement is extreme or awkward. Vibration and the use of force in tasks also contribute.
Treatment can include physical therapy and exercise, splints, braces, adjustment to activity and wrist positioning, anti-inflammatory medications and, in long-term instances, surgery to stop permanent damage. According to OrthoInfo, it can take as long as a year to recover from surgery and in the worst cases, there may never be complete healing.
What jobs are most common for causing the syndrome?
While many people associate carpal tunnel syndrome with assembly and production line work, it is also common in jobs like:
- Poultry and meat processors
- Sewers and other textile jobs
- Bakers and food processors
- Administrative workers doing repetitive work using keyboards, including computer work
- Manufacturing jobs
Workers’ compensation for carpal tunnel syndrome
Employers may be able to ergonomically change workstations and equipment to help positioning and posture as well as tweak job tasks to lessen the need for repetitive movements. But when work-related carpal tunnel occurs, these workers’ compensation benefits may be available:
- Medical expenses
- Temporary total disability (TTD)
- Accommodations to the workplace to allow work with restrictions from the syndrome
- Permanent partial disability (PPD)
- Permanent total disability (PTD)
- Wage differential benefits
This introduces a painful, long-term condition that can be caused by a wide range of jobs and if so, entitles these employees to workers’ compensation.