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What workers can develop carpal tunnel syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is caused by a compressed nerve in a narrow passageway on the palm side of the wrist - the carpal tunnel - and can cause numbness, tingling and other issues in the hand and arm, as well as discomfort in the wrist. It starts gradual but can persist until the pain makes it difficult to perform normal activities.

Most people associate CTS with office work and assume only people who work a desk job develop it. In reality, it can affect workers across many industries.

Occupational activities

CTS is sometimes caused by certain physical occupational activities, such as:

  • Repetitive and forceful movements of the hand and wrist
  • Use of hand-held powered vibratory tools
  • Repetitive and forceful gripping

An occupational medicine study analyzed risks by job title and found high prevalence rates and relative risks in these jobs, and that there was "insufficient evidence" that the syndrome was caused by extreme wrist postures.

This dispels the myth that hyperextension of the wrists in a keyboard-based job are more likely to cause CTS. In fact, the occupations that show a risk for carpal tunnel syndrome fell into three broad categories: food processing and packing, jobs using vibratory tools and assembly work. Workers in these occupations who are experiencing the symptoms may have CTS due to their job.

CTS and workers' compensation

Repetitive use injuries are just as serious as any other workplace injury and can be debilitating for long-term employment in an occupation. Georgia requires workers to report an injury within 30 days, but it can be difficult to establish when a repetitive use injury first occurred.

Seeing a doctor for wrist pain may seem tedious, but it can help establish a pattern that can lead to the conclusion of a workplace injury. A workers' compensation attorney can investigate an employee's medical history and familiarize themselves with the nature of a job to determine if an injury came from the workplace.

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