I ran across an interesting article recently about carpal tunnel syndrome. The article was from Charleston, West Virginia. It described the case of an employee of Marshall University who had filed a workers’ compensation claim for carpal tunnel syndrome.
Although the claim was originally rejected, it was sent back to the Workers’ Compensation Board of Review for further consideration.
Not privy to the details of the case, I decided to address the issue of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal tunnel syndrome…
First of all, carpal tunnel syndrome involves pressure on the median nerve. The median nerve is one of the major nerves that supply the hand and fingers. Consequently, when it is involved, patients experience difficulty using their hands and fingers.
In fact, one of the primary symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome is numbness and tingling in the hands and wrist. There is a specific area that is usually involved. This includes the thumb side of the hand, the index and middle fingers, and the thumb side of the ring finger. The rest of the hand is supplied by the ulnar nerve and is not usually involved.
Here’s the rub… since the early symptoms often occur at night, the condition is not easily related to the work place. It is also associated with obesity, pregnancy, and a variety of other conditions that have little, if anything, to do with the work place.
Some even feel that the condition is related to a deficiency of vitamin B6.
There is an interesting correlation between body mass index (BMI) and carpal tunnel syndrome. Basically, the larger the BMI, the greater the chance of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
There was an outbreak of carpal tunnel syndrome, and other upper extremity cumulative trauma disorders, in Australia in the 1980s. The outbreak occurred in telephone operators and affected large numbers of workers. It was actually referred to as “the Australian epidemic”.
It was, at first, blamed on the computer keyboard. Later on, after extensive investigation, it was labeled as a “psychosocial hysterical phenomenon”. It appeared that it had little, if anything, to do with using the computer. Rather, the “epidemic” seemed to have a life of its’ own.
One of the components of the claim mentioned earlier in this blog was the claim that “poor ergonomics” had contributed to the development of the workers’ carpal tunnel syndrome. Whether this is true or not is difficult to ascertain.
As the computer is used more and more in the work place, cumulative trauma disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome are likely to be more common.