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Work Related Carpal Tunnel

work related carpal tunnelThere are evidence based reports and statistics that suggest that the cause of carpal tunnel syndrome is unknown for most patients.  However, there are common conditions that can lead to CTS such as pregnancy, obesity, hypothyroidism, diabetes, arthritis and trauma.  It is well known that repetitive movement or work can often result in tendon inflammation and can cause work related carpal tunnel.

In fact, musculoskeletal disorders, including carpal tunnel syndrome, are among the most prevalent medical conditions in the U.S., affecting 7% of the population., as reported by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.  The U.S. Department of Labor has concluded that Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is the “chief occupational hazard of the 90’s” and currently affects over 8 million Americans.

Carpal Tunnel in Men versus Women

As the #1 reported medical problem, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, CTS accounts for approximately 50% of all work-related injuries.  Of those affected, women account for about 45% of all workers, experiencing nearly 2/3rds of all work-related repetitive strain injuries.  This makes it evident that women are twice as likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome as opposed to their male counterparts.  In fact, women are at greater risk for developing CTS due to anatomical, physical, and social factors.  Since 1996, the percentages of women with repetitive work injuries increased significantly, compared to that of men.

Occupations at Risk for Work Related Carpal Tunnel

Some industries have higher incidences of CTS-related events than others.  Rating them from highest to lowest numbers according to the U.S. Department of Labor they are:  Assemblers, Cashiers, Secretaries, General Office Clerks, Non-construction Laborers, Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks, Welders and Cutters, Data-entry employees, Textile Sewing Machine Operators, Order Clerks, Supervisors and Proprietors in sales occupations, Machine Operators, Truck Drivers, Non-insurance Investigators and Adjustors, Insurance Adjusters, Examiners, and Investigators, Electrical and Electronic Equipment Assemblers, Packaging and Filling Machine Operators, Janitors and Cleaners, Bank Tellers, Production Inspectors, Checkers and Examiners.

Work Related Carpal Tunnel

Repetitive stress injuries continue to have significant impact on the U.S. workplace.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, reported cases are up by 770% from 10 years ago.  Of all cases reported, repetitive stress injuries is one of the most frequently reported conditions in the workplace environment.

Sadly, surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome is the second most common type of surgery, with well over 230,000 procedures performed annually.  Upon seeking treatment, only 23% of carpal tunnel syndrome patients return to their previous professions after surgery, and up to 36% require unlimited medical treatment.

When considering the cost to the employer, the average work related carpal tunnel syndrome claim can cost $3500 in benefits and up to $40,000 in medical costs.  Since 2007, carpal tunnel syndrome accounts for 28 median days missed from work in a year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It is evident that carpal tunnel syndrome is a medical issue that impacts both the employer and employee.  Not only does it account for a loss of revenue for the employer, but also it negatively affects longevity of valuable employees.

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  • Sarah Jo Coryell

    I have battled carpal tunnel for years. As a writer by profession and as a hobby, I know the pain and numbness of this condition all too well. Whether it is from writing too long or too much time spent on the computer there are many things that can trigger my symptoms.

    • Danny

      I too can see why carpal tunnel is such a serious issue for employers. So many people are affected by it in some way shape or form and the time off from work, lower productivity, and other issues it causes really does have a huge impact on business. I have never really had issues with it except for when i do all nighters for projects now and then- and that is more than enough for me.

    • Kevin C.

      My wife has carpal tunnel flare ups that were tied to her work. As a college professor she spent many hours at the computer and some semesters her CTS was so bad she had to live in her braces. I think more employers should make an effort to help their employees with this issue.

  • T.J.

    I find it very interesting that we men are less likely to have issues with carpal tunnel than our female counterparts. Maybe that is part of the reason why my cases are so mild when I do have them. It is only once or twice a year that I have anything close to a CT flareup yet I know women who have them all of the time!

    • Sarah Jo Coryell

      You are lucky to have only mild occasional flare ups. I thin some of it is dependent on sex but a great deal I think comes from the way you live and work. I am a writer so there is a lot of pressure on my wrists all day every day. I think that is why my flare ups are so bad and why I need a brace so often,

  • Patrick M.

    “the average work related carpal tunnel syndrome claim can cost $3500 in benefits and up to $40,000 in medical costs.” That is just mind blowing, but I guess it does make sense when you think about it. Employee productivity is the key to business success and your employees cant be productive if their hands don’t work well so you do what you can to help them.

  • Mara

    As a blogger, I have found that my carpal tunnel syndrome has progressively gotten worse, but it makes sense due to the fact that I am constantly on my computer working and typing. I do find it interesting, however, that women tend to get carpal tunnel syndrome more over men. It would seem that men would be exposed to jobs and activities more than women that would put them at risk for CTS. I had a friend whose father was a construction worker, and because he had been exposed to a jackhammer so much he had developed severe CTS. He had to undergo CTS surgery and now has a HUGE scar from it. I’m hoping I can just live with my CTS, but it seems to be getting worse…

  • Bert

    I can guess what the social factors for women being more likely to get work-related CTS might be (women more likely to be performing administrative duties…although I’m not sure this is the case any more). But what are the physical and anatomical factors? Is it a matter of muscle mass? If so, would better development of hand/wrist muscles proactively reduce risk of CTS?