What Does it Mean to Have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

While industrial jobs are hard to find in this economy, service-based roles have increased, causing more employees to suffer from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, a painful disorder that is discomforting and sometimes there can be numbness of the hands. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is at the forefront of the new workplace and a significant health problem today. Because Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a common workplace injury, it is considered to be a workers’ compensation claim and there are many workers compensation questions surrounding it.

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI). CTS occurs when wrists are exposed to persistent and repetitive strain. The tissues surrounding the tendons become so enlarged that they compress the median nerve, which runs through the carpal tunnel, a passage in the wrist. CTS can cause the following symptoms though they can be different for everyone:

  • Numbness, tingling and pain in the hand, wrist and forearm
  • Impaired or lost nerve function
  • Reduced muscle control
  • Reduced grip strength

What are the causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? Causes can include working hour after hour at a computer keyboard, meat cutting and wrapping, high speed assembly-line work, or any other activity where the hand and fingers are employed in repetitive motions for extended periods of time. Repeated motions performed in the course of normal work or other daily activities can result in repetitive motion disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome considered a work-related injury under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act?
Yes, the Illinois Supreme Court has said that because Carpal Tunnel Syndrome develops gradually and is not as the result of a sudden accident, employees can be compensated from the onset of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome under the Act.

What medical benefits am I entitled to after I develop Carpal Tunnel Syndrome at work?
For workers compensation claims you are entitled to receive 100% of all medical expenses that are reasonable and necessary to treat your condition. These include, but are not limited to, emergency room services, doctors’ visits, inpatient and outpatient hospital care, and prescriptions.

What wage benefits am I entitled to while I am off work because of my Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? For workers compensation claims you are entitled to temporary total disability compensation (TTD) while you are off work and are under active medical treatment. Temporary total disability compensation is based on a percentage of your average weekly wage, including overtime.

Will I be entitled to receive any other benefits after I return to work at my regular job after being treated for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
You may be entitled to receive compensation for the partial permanent loss of use of your hands or arms as a result of contracting CTS while on the job. Such compensation is called permanent partial disability compensation (PPD), and is received as the result of a settlement agreement between you and your employer, or as the result of the decision of the arbitrator assigned to your claim.

Who is at risk of developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? Women are three times more likely than men to develop carpal tunnel syndrome, typically because wrist bones are naturally smaller in most women, creating a tighter space through which the nerves and tendons pass. The dominant hand is usually affected first and produces the most severe pain. The risk of developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is not confined to a single industry or job, but is common among assembly line work such as manufacturing, sewing, finishing, cleaning, and meat, poultry, or fish packing. CTS is three times more common among assemblers than among data-entry personnel.

Can Carpal Tunnel Syndrome be prevented?

At the workplace, workers can do on-the-job conditioning, perform stretching exercises, take frequent rest breaks, wear splints to keep wrists straight, and use correct posture and wrist position. Wearing fingerless gloves can help keep hands warm and flexible. Workstations, tools, tool handles, and tasks can be redesigned to enable the worker’s wrist to maintain a natural position during work.

If you do need to make a claim for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, an experienced attorney from our offices can help you navigate the various options in order to receive the proper compensation for your injuries.