Repetitive injury: What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

All workers in North Carolina are exposed to workplace hazards, regardless of the jobs they do. However, it is easier to get workers’ compensation benefits for injuries that are obvious, such as fractured bones or lacerations than for injuries that involve musculoskeletal disorders and those resulting from occupational overuse. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common repetitive injury that causes chronic pain for workers who use their hands to repeat similar motions for hours without adequate breaks.

The primary nerve to the hand runs through the wrist, encased in a narrow tunnel-like passageway along with the tendons that are necessary to bend the fingers. In turn, each one of these muscles has a protecting sheath that lubricates it. When the hand and fingers perform the same repetitive motions over and over, the lubrication can fail and cause friction and swelling of the tendons. In the restricted space of the carpal tunnel, the swollen muscles squeeze the median nerve, which can suffer permanent damage over time.

The squeezed median nerve causes tingling sensations, numbness, and pain, and, ultimately, hand weakness. Repetitive motions such as gripping objects strongly, vibration and working with the hands in awkward positions typically cause carpal tunnel syndrome. It is an extremely painful condition that is only repairable with surgery.

A victim of a repetitive injury might be unable to continue working, or he or she might have to change to another job that pays less. Although the North Carolina worker’s compensation system covers most occupational injuries, proving one to be work-related could be challenging. This is where the skills of an attorney who has experience in fighting for the rights of injured workers come in. A lawyer might secure benefits to cover lost wages and medical expenses — including the cost of surgery.

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