Myth: Getting Carpal Tunnel Surgery Means Missing Work For A Long Time
Many people are hesitant to consider carpal tunnel release because they fear losing use of their hand for weeks or even months, or they dont feel they can take enough time off work. But the recovery period for carpal tunnel release can be relatively quicklight non-repetitive use of the hand is permitted after about a week, when the bandage is removed.
In fact, those who have jobs with minimal involvement of the affected hand may return to work in a week or two. This may be particularly true for those who receive the endoscopic approach. A splint may still be needed occasionally to support the wrist, especially at night.
Patients who had the procedure in their dominant hand or who perform repetitive labor, such as an assembly line worker, may need to wait six to eight weeks before returning to work. After two or three months, most patients will experience the return of grip and pinch strength and can resume heavy use of the hand.
How To Avoid Carpal Tunnel Syndrome With A Desk Job
A common misconception about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is that it is associated with tasks that require heavy hand use. For instance, heavy typing, rapid computer use, and other heavy office-related tasks.
However, the truth is that Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can affect any person who performs repetitive movements with their hands. More than 500,000 people undergo Carpal Tunnel surgery every year, which is why it is one of the most common hand operations conducted.
Even though there isn’t a designated treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, there are a few methods that you can apply to reduce the pressure you put on your wrists and hands while working at a desk job.
Disability Claims Resulting From Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome can significantly impact your ability to use your hands and arms due to chronic pain, numbness, and tingling. Carpal tunnel syndrome can make it difficult to work, especially for those who need to frequently use their hands to perform their job duties.
In order to successfully file a disability claim for carpal tunnel, you will need to demonstrate that you suffer from the condition and that it results in functional limitations that impair your ability to work. This includes gathering and submitting medical records and physical exams or test results. You will need to demonstrate that you meet your LTD policys applicable definition of disability and that you are in appropriate care and treatment for your disabling condition.
If your long-term disability claim for carpal tunnel syndrome has been denied, consider consulting an experienced ERISA or LTD attorney as soon as possible. Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick handles initial LTD claims, administrative appeals when claims are denied, and court litigation when appeals are denied. We know how the insurance companies operate and we can help strengthen your claim for disability benefits. Contact us for a free consultation.
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Will Physical Therapy Work For Me
That depends on how well you respond to treatment and whether physical therapy will help you meet your goals of pain relief and better hand function.
But research is promising.
In a recent study, doctors in Spain divided 120 women with carpal tunnel syndrome into two groups. One group got surgery. The other group was treated with physical therapy. The therapists focused on the soft tissue in their arms and hands. The goal was to stop irritation of the median nerve, the culprit behind the condition.
Researchers followed up with both groups of women several times over a year. What they found is that both physical therapy and surgery can help, but physical therapy led to better outcomes in the short term. The women who received therapy had less pain and better function much earlier compared with those who had surgery.
Could physical therapy help your carpal tunnel syndrome? Talk to your doctor. If you do choose to have therapy, your physical therapist will follow up with your doctor to talk about your progress and make other recommendations.
Preventing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome At Work
Following the below tips while at work can help to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome:
- Use an ergonomically correct workstation that includes a wrist pad. Keep a wrist pad at the bottom of your keyboard to help keep your wrists in a neutral, almost straight position when you are not typing. When you are actively typing, keep your forearms raised a little, so your hands and wrists can move freely.
- Center the work in front of you. Keep it as low as you can, but make sure the keyboard or workstation doesnt touch your legs.
- Keep your forearms parallel to the floor or just slightly lower.
- Keep your hands and wrists in line with your forearms.
- Hold your elbows close to your sides.
- Take short breaks every 15 minutes.
- Dont lean on your wrists or the heels of your hands.
- Stretch your body and perform some wrist stretches.
- Change your computer mouse. There are many styles to choose from. Some will change the position of your hand and help reduce the stress on your wrist. It might take a few tries to find one that works for you.
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What Type Of Pain Is Tens Best For
TENS units are effective for acute pain, but chronic pain should be assessed by a doctor to find the underlying problem before settling on TENS treatment.
TENS treatment has been proven effective for postoperative pain, diabetic neuropathy, fibromyalgia, and spinal cord injury. It can also be effective for arthritis, period pain, as well as pelvic pain caused by endometriosis.
Typically, TENS therapy is used for muscle pain, joint pain, and bone pain but is frequently used for many other ailments in treatment.
It can be useful for migraines and osteoarthritis as well.
Inability To Work Due To Limitations
If your carpal tunnel syndrome is severe enough, you may be able to receive disability benefits by showing that you are unable to return to any work. The Residual Functional Capacity assessment is the tool used by Social Security to assess your physical and mental abilities with regards to performing a job.
Carpal tunnel syndrome generally affects your physical abilities, although the pain involved in carpal tunnel syndrome can also affect your mental abilities, such as your ability to concentrate.
Physical exertion and limitations. Social Security will look at the level of physical exertion you are able to perform and assess your ability to work based on jobs in that category. In assessing the physical ability of your arms, Social Security looks at your ability to lift, carry, and grip items and perform fine manipulation with your fingers. For those with carpal tunnel syndrome, difficulty with fine motor skills, which includes all tasks that are completed using your fingers makes performing a job that requires these tasks nearly impossible. In addition, weakness in your hands may make gripping and carrying items difficult, which prevents you from being able to perform jobs where you are required to use handheld tools to complete a task or pick up items using your hands.
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Talk To Your Supervisor
If your work triggers your symptoms, ask you manager about changing up your work space. You may be able to alter anything from your workstation setup to tool handles to how tasks get done to see if it helps your symptoms. You might also be able to trade off with co-workers so you can avoid the same task over and over.
If you work at a computer, try these things:
- Adjust your keyboard position so you donât have to bend your wrists when you type.
- Keep your elbows close to your side as you type.
How Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Affects Your Ability To Work
First, understand that the SSA wont approve anyone for SSD benefits unless they meet certain basic requirements. The main issue isnt how much pain youre in, or what the doctor says is wrong with your health. Its whether your health problems specifically force you to stop working for at least 12 months. Many people with mild to moderate carpal tunnel need about 28 days off to recover from outpatient surgery. Thats according to recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics . However, if you struggled to keep working in pain until your doctor convinced you to get surgery, thats different.
Your grip and strength should return about 2-3 months after surgery, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons . However, some people dont get full grip and pinch strength back until 6-12 months post-surgery. Put off treatment for too long, and you may suffer permanent nerve damage. Younger people typically file workers compensation claims for CTS surgery, since its a repetitive motion injury. But for those in middle age, moderate to advanced CTS may spell the end of their working years.
According to the National Institute for Health , women are 3x more likely to develop carpal tunnel than men. Occupations that are most likely to develop carpal tunnel include:
- Telecom equipment installers
Overall, BLS data shows about 1 in every 10,000 workers requests time off for CTS-related issues every year.
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Accident Or Occupational Disease
Some states treat carpal tunnel syndrome as a workplace “accident,” while others consider it an “occupational disease”. The distinction matters because it dictates what you have to prove in order to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.
If your state’s laws mandate that the only compensable disabilities are those that arise from an accident, then the strength of your case will depend upon how terms such as “accident” and “injury” are defined in your jurisdiction. For example, if carpal tunnel syndrome is characterized as an “accident”, you may have to show the injury was caused suddenly and violently.
The modern approach is to include “occupational diseases” as a compensable injury in the workers’ compensation scheme. If your state characterizes carpal tunnel syndrome as an “occupational disease”, you will have to show that as an employee you suffered a greater exposure to the disease than did the general public.
Who Is At Risk Of Developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Women are three times more likely than men to develop carpal tunnel syndrome. People with diabetes or other metabolic disorders that directly affect the bodys nerves and make them more susceptible to compression are also at high risk. CTS usually occurs only in adults.
Workplace factors may contribute to existing pressure on or damage to the median nerve. The risk of developing CTS is not confined to people in a single industry or job, but may be more reported in those performing assembly line worksuch as manufacturing, sewing, finishing, cleaning, and meatpackingthan it is among data-entry personnel.
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Consider Your Sleeping Position
Be mindful of aggravating your wrists outside of the office, too. Avoid sleeping on your wrists or hands, especially in a flexed position. Many office workers find it beneficial to wear a wrist brace while sleeping to help them avoid inadvertently putting additional strain on the wrists before their work day even starts.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is easy to prevent if you pay attention to your habits as you work. If you continue to have pain in your hands and wrists, call Tri-State Orthopaedics or book an appointment online to learn about effective treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome.
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When Can Carpal Tunnel Be Considered Work
Carpal tunnel is one of the most common repetitive stress injuries facing workers today, with the CDC reporting an average of about 900,000 new cases in the US annually. In some cases, carpal tunnel can be attributed to working conditions, opening up employers to compensation claims. However, as there are many different factors which can cause carpal tunnel syndrome, the burden of proof rests heavily on employees to prove their injury is the result of their working conditions. Once you are aware of these factors, you can minimize them in your own organization.
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Exercises And Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation techniques and mini exercises can be beneficial for your wrists and stop Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from developing. You may ask what can you do to exercise at work if you are always chained to your desk?
Firstly, you need to make sure that your repetitive hand movements are not being isolated. If there is no variation in your hand movement, the tendons are more likely to swell.
Stretch your arms, and rest regularly by flexing them back and forth. You can also move them in circular motions and slightly give them a shake. Hold your fingers wide till they feel stretched out, and slowly relax them back in. Repeating this step several times can give you a relaxing sensation in your hands. These exercises can improve blood flow and reduce overall inflammation in your palm or wrist area.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome And Its Association With Occupation
Over the past 20 years there have been a vast number of studies investigating the relationship between carpal tunnel syndrome and occupational activities. The number of studies is now so extensive that there have been a number of published systematic reviews of this literature . In addition to the issues described above with classification criteria for CTS, another difficulty in interpreting the reviews has been the lack of standardisation of exposure classification in the individual studies. Very few studies have made in-depth analyses of movements involved in work activities as this is necessarily time-consuming and expensive and thus would need to be limited to few individuals. Exposure classification has therefore generally ranged from simple job titles through to self-reported workplace activities .
In a subsequent meta-analysis, based upon studies carried out between 1980 and 2009, Barcenilla et al , reviewed many of the studies included in the reviews above and an additional 14 more recent studies. Using a conservative definition of CTS that included nerve conduction abnormality with symptoms and/or signs, this study found risk factors significantly associated with an increased risk of CTS among workers to be:
- vibration 5.40, 95% confidence intervals 3.14-9.31)
- hand force
and close to significance for:
- combined exposure to both force and repetition .
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How Does The Social Security Administration Determine If My Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Is Disabling
Social Security employs a 5-step sequential evaluation process to determine if you qualify for disability benefits under the SSDI and/or SSI programs. The following evaluation is employed by the adjudicator at each phase.
Step 1: Substantial Gainful Activity. The first thing SSA will look at is whether you are working above what Social Security calls a Substantial Gainful Activity level. Essentially, you cannot be earning more than $1,260 on a gross monthly basis. No matter how severe and debilitating your carpal tunnel syndrome and other conditions may be, if you are earning more than this amount consistently per month , your claim will be technically denied.
Step 2: Severe Impairment. The question in Step 2 is simply, Are your conditions severe? To answer this question, we will need to evaluate all of your medical records and compile evidence. As your attorney, Nolan & Shafer, PLC will be heavily involved in this process. The SSA can also request that you complete Activities of Daily Living and Work History reports, which provide an opportunity for you to communicate how your symptoms have impacted your ability to function normally.
- inability to lift and carry more than 10 pounds,
- inability to climb ropes or ladders,
- inability to use your fingers for fine motor manipulation,
- and more.
To start, Social Security classifies your education level as follows:
What Are The Risks Of Carpal Tunnel Surgery
As with most surgeries, carpal tunnel release is not without its risks. Your wrist will be made numb and you may be given medicine to make you sleepy and not feel pain for the procedure. In some cases general anesthesia is used, this when drugs are used to put you into a deep sleep during surgery. Anesthesia poses risks for some people. Other potential risks of a carpal tunnel release surgery include:
- Injury to the median nerve or nerves that branch out from it
- Injuries to nearby blood vessels
- A sensitive scar
The recovery from carpal tunnel surgery takes time anywhere from several weeks to several months. If the nerve has been compressed for a long period of time, recovery may take even longer. Recovery involves splinting your wrist and getting physical therapy to strengthen and heal the wrist and hand.
There may be other risks, depending on your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your doctor before the procedure.
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Tips For Preventing Carpal Tunnel In An Office Job
Most office work is not physically dangerous. Sitting down is easier on the body than jobs that require heavy lifting, for example. But office workers are particularly prone to one type of injury: carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can develop as a result of repetitive motions things you do every day, such as typing on a computer. However, you can take several small steps to try to reduce the impact of repetitive motions in office work. Here, Dr. Apurva Dalal provides information about carpal tunnel syndrome and offers tips for preventing it.
How Does Carpal Tunnel Create Limitations For Specific Jobs
The inability to lift, carry, reach, or grasp can impact your ability to perform work. If you cannot finger or grasp small things you cannot perform duties as a product inspector, bookkeeper or administrative assistant. Your inability to lift or carry things can keep from being employed in a warehouse, shipping department, as a delivery driver, or as a cashier.
You may also realize you are unable to do data entry, word processing, or IT duties.
Your wrist and arm pain can make it impossible for you to drive, so you cannot drive a tractor-trailer truck, a trolley, or a bus for public transportation. The problems with your wrist and hand motions can make repairing things impossible, so you may find yourself unable to do duties as a mechanic or in the maintenance department.
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