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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is considered an “occupational disease” by the Workers’ Compensation statute.  This means it’s not a specific injury at an exact moment in time.  Rather, it develops over time.  The law looks at occupational diseases differently than acute injuries.

First, there are complicated issues about when did it start, when did you get diagnosed, when did you realize that the disease was a result of work?  When did you report it?  How long have you been at your current job?  Could the disease have started at a previous employer?  All of these questions are difficult to navigate, and if you wait too long, you may lose your opportunity to pursue it.

Second, the law says that you have to prove “causation;” that is, the condition arose out of and in the course of employment and that work was the “prevailing factor” in leading to the diagnosis.  In my experience, this used to be easier to prove.  However, there seems to be a shift in the medical community about causation.  Women, smokers, the middle aged, and those morbidly obese are more likely to suffer from this condition.  If you meet any or all of these criteria, doctors will use this statistic to say that work is not the cause.

Third, this condition leads to the employer exploring any other possible ways you use your hands.  They will ask about hobbies like knitting, gardening, painting or other home repair, playing video games, typing.  Anything they can think of to cause the condition will be explored.

One other thing people don’t think about is that this is a rather complicated condition in terms of diagnosis and treatment.  Sometimes symptoms in the hands come from the neck, or the elbow. Also, often diagnostic tests are negative, yet doctors will still diagnose the condition.

If you have symptoms in your hands such as numbness and tingling, weakened grip, dropping things, pain in the wrist, or swelling, and you do a job requiring repetitive us of your upper extremities, call us before you do anything else.  This is a difficult injury to navigate alone.

 

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