I Think I Have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. What Now?
Your carpal tunnel is the bony structure located in the wrist at the base of the hand. It features a narrow passageway, through which the median nerve extends from the forearm down into the hand. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the passageway is narrower than it should be, and as a result, the nerve is compressed and inflamed. Carpal tunnel syndrome is often a work-related injury. Because there are deadlines for filing a workers’ compensation claim in San Jose, and because the symptoms grow progressively worse, you should seek medical care and legal guidance promptly.
Symptoms and Progression
The symptoms of this common workplace injury become worse gradually when treatment isn’t sought. And unfortunately, because the symptoms tend to be mild at first, many people delay getting a medical evaluation. The longer you wait before seeking treatment, the less likely it is that nonsurgical options will be successful. See a doctor promptly if you experience any persistent tingling, numbness, burning, or pain in your wrist and hand. This repetitive strain injury causes these symptoms in the thumb, index, and middle fingers, but not typically in the ring or little fingers. As the condition progresses, you may have:
- Difficulty grasping small objects or forming a fist
- Frequent dropping of items
- The feeling of swelling, without any actual swelling
- Decreased sensation or temperature perception
Causes and Risk Factors
For the purposes of your workers’ compensation claim, your doctor will need to establish that your job duties were the cause of your carpal tunnel syndrome. Some examples of work tasks that may contribute to this condition are:
- Repeated use of power tools that vibrate (e.g. jackhammers)
- Physical trauma to the wrist
- Prolonged wrist flexing on an assembly line
- Repetitive wrist movements elsewhere in the workplace (e.g. scanning groceries)
People who work in certain occupations may be more likely to suffer from this repetitive strain injury. These jobs include:
- Meat, poultry, and fish packing
- Assembly line workers
- Sewing professionals
Diagnosis and Treatments
Discuss the likely causes and contributing risk factors with your doctor, and make sure your medical record reflects this information. To confirm your diagnosis for your workers’ comp case, your doctor can perform a nerve conduction study, which tests the electrical activity in the nerves. Your treatment options will likely include splinting or bracing, anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroid injections, and possibly surgery.