Many office workers spend long hours performing repetitive tasks at their computers. This activity can cause carpal tunnel syndrome, a painful and sometimes disabling condition. Employees with carpal tunnel syndrome are often forced to take substantial amounts of time off. An Illinois workers’ comp attorney is aware that these employees may need to switch to part-time work or change jobs completely.

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Carpal tunnel infographic

A brief introduction to carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a neurological disease of the wrist. It is caused by long-term irritation of the median nerve, the important nerve that links the hand and the forearm. This nerve runs through a narrow tunnel of tendons and ligaments. These tendons and ligaments may become inflamed or thickened through overuse, leading to compression of the median nerve and a range of painful symptoms.

Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome

The symptoms of median nerve compression can vary from one patient to another. Some of the most common manifestations include the following:

  • Itching, tingling or burning in the fingers or the palm of the hand
  • Loss of grip strength
  • Difficulty picking up small objects
  • Repeatedly “shaking out” the hands or wrists
  • Sharp pain located in the wrist or radiating through the lower arm
  • Decreased temperature sensitivity in the hands and fingers

These symptoms can cause partial or total disability, as every Illinois workers’ comp attorney knows.

Occupational causes of carpal tunnel syndrome

According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 1.8 million American workers suffer job-related musculoskeletal injuries every year, including carpal tunnel syndrome. All employees who engage in repetitive work with the hands and fingers may be at risk of carpal tunnel syndrome. The syndrome is especially common among data entry professionals and other people who must type uninterrupted for hours every day. Overuse of power tools and other vibrating machinery can also lead to inflammation and median nerve damage.

Carpal tunnel syndrome and Illinois workers’ compensation

Recent amendments to Illinois workers’ compensation law may affect employees living with carpal tunnel syndrome and other forms of work-related nerve damage. Section 8(e)9 of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act restricts the amount of permanent partial disability that may be paid to a worker with repetitive wrist trauma to 57 weeks, or little more than a year. Fortunately, Section 8(e)9 contains an exception for employees whose condition is aggravated by a crush injury or blunt force trauma on the job.

Many Chicago workers are struggling with the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. Injured employees may wish to discuss their case with a Illinois workers’ comp attorney.