Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: When The Workplace Is a Factor

What is CTS?

Carpal tunnel syndrome happens when swelling occurs in the tendons of your wrist. In turn, the swollen area applies pressure to the median nerve which stretches from the forearm into the hand. Initially, you may experience tingling or sensations of a small electrical shock running to your hand.

What Causes CTS?

The condition is more common in older individuals and women. In addition, those who have inherited a narrow wrist may also be more vulnerable to CTS because there’s less room for the nerves to pass through, meaning heredity can definitely be a factor. Finally, people with certain medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes or thyroid disorders are more prone to develop CTS.

CTS is classified as non-traumatic and traumatic. Non-traumatic causes include afore-mentioned diseases like rheumatoid arthritis that make people more susceptible.

If CTS is caused by injury; it is classified as traumatic. For example, the repeated use of vibrating power tools can be a factor.


Because CTS is often due to repetitive motion injuries that occur over time, CTS symptoms start slow and progress until they become constant and more severe. Symptoms usually start when patients feel a swelling sensation in their hand, while no visible swelling is apparent, followed by tingling or numbness in the index and middle fingers and the thumb.

As the symptoms progress, the tingling and numbness usually turn into pain and you may experience muscle weakness in your hand, wrist and forearm. After having CTS for several months, the small muscles in your wrist and thumb start to atrophy. Many people say that their symptoms are worse at night because, while sleeping, people relax and flex the wrists, which increases these sensations.

When Work Is a Factor

Musculoskeletal disorders in the hand and upper extremities are frequently tied to workplace computer use. Some studies have tracked people over a long period of time, and for people who used keyboards for 6-7 hours a day, there is a possible association regarding developing CTS and making CTS worse. Even if computers don’t cause the development of CTS, keyboarding does cause strain in the hand and wrist.

There are other work activities besides typing that can cause someone to develop CTS, such as repetitive manual tasks that require use of vibrating hand tools. For example, a high occurrence of CTS has been seen in meat packers who work in a cold environment and grip chain saws for long periods of time; it is also seen in loggers for the same reasons.

Barry Simmons, M.D., chief of hand surgery at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, says, “Upper-extremity disorders related to the use of computer keyboards are the second most common reason for work-related disability after back pain.” Simmons says that ergonomic tools like wrist rests or workstation adjustments usually help these other disorders, but typically don’t help CTS as surgery is usually the only cure.

If you are working in the Greenville or Pitt County area and you suspect you have CTS or another disorder related to the work you do, come see us. We will help you evaluate your condition.

Greenville, NC Personal Injury Attorneys

I’m Brian Ricci, a Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation Lawyer in Greenville, NC. Whatever the source of your traumatic carpal tunnel syndrome, please call me anytime at (252) 777-2222 or (888) 484-6881 for free, friendly advice. Let’s go over the details of your accident case over the phone and see how best to proceed. The call is free and there is no obligation to you.

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