When you think of a work-related injury, do you think about a violent accident that causes you or one of your co-workers serious injuries? You aren't alone. Many people share this belief, which is unfortunate since injuries do not have to happen in a sudden, one-time event in order to qualify for workers' compensation benefits.
Some injuries slowly grow worse until they become debilitating and cause chronic pain. For example, carpal tunnel syndrome does not happen overnight. Instead, it creeps up on you.
What indicators should you look for?
A nerve runs from your forearm down into the palm of your hand. In carpal tunnel syndrome, swelling and/or irritation can become quite painful and compress or squeeze that nerve. The most common symptoms of this condition include the following:
- The first thing you may notice is that your hands feel as though they are asleep when you get up in the morning, and you need to shake them to awaken them. This often happens because people tend to flex their wrists as they sleep.
- You may also notice some itchy, burning and tingling numbness beginning in the palm of your hand and then spreading to your thumb, index and middle fingers.
- The tingling and numbness could last all day as your condition gets worse.
- You could feel as though your fingers no longer work properly. They may also feel swollen without any sign of swelling.
- You may find it difficult to grip or grasp objects.
- If it gets bad enough, you may not even be able to differentiate between cold and hot.
Some medical issues can cause carpal tunnel syndrome, but many people develop it through work.
What about my work caused this to happen?
When your doctor rules out other medical reasons for this condition, you need to look at your work habits. Certain stresses at work such as repeated activities can lead to it. If you use vibrating tools, type all day or engage in any other repetitive motions with your hands or wrists during your workday, you could develop carpal tunnel syndrome.
A wide variety of people working in a large array of industries could develop this condition. In addition to the examples above, hairdressers often develop this condition, too. People who work on assembly lines often develop the condition three times more often than those who work on computers all day.
What can you do about it?
Your doctor could prescribe a variety of treatments, including surgery. You may need to adjust your work habits. You could have days where the pain is so bad that you can't perform your work duties. If you developed this affliction due to your work, you could apply for workers' compensation benefits to cover your medical costs and a portion of any income you lose as you recover.