Carpal Tunnel: What Is It and When Does Workers’ Compensation Cover It?

When workers think of potential injuries that will lead to time off work and workers’ compensation, they often think of serious accidents or physical challenges such as a broken bone, herniated disk, or torn ligament in the knee.

In reality, however, the increasing number of workers who work desk jobs or in front of a computer have contributed to a rapidly growing rate of carpal tunnel injuries brought on by repetitive activities such as typing.

Understanding Carpal Tunnel Symptoms in Hamilton Township, New Jersey

Carpal tunnel is a repetitive stress injury that causes inflammation and swelling in the arm, hand, and fingers. It often presents as an intense pain in the lower arm and fingers that greatly limits movement. As repetitive stress suggests, the injury is brought on through repeated movements over time.

One of the primary causes of carpal tunnel is typing at a computer, which many deskbound workers do for almost eight hours a day. Particularly when an individual is not properly positioned in relation to their desk or computer, carpal tunnel can slowly develop over time. Eventually, severe carpal tunnel can make it impossible to type, effectively preventing an individual from working.

Establishing A Successful Carpal Tunnel Workers Compensation Claim

Although carpal tunnel often arises from desk-related work, it can technically occur with any repetitive activity involving your arms, wrists, and hands.  For example, casino dealers, cocktail servers, and construction workers using jack hammers may also suffer from carpal tunnel.  Typically, one of the biggest challenges in bringing a workers’ compensation claim for carpal tunnel is showing that your injury actually occurred at work.

Carpal tunnel is primarily considered to be an occupational disease, rather than a work-related accident. Occupational diseases are only covered by workers’ compensation where the employee can clearly establish that the disease is a result of work. This means that employees filing workers’ compensation claims for carpal tunnel have the burden of proving that their injury exists and that it was caused by a circumstance at work, rather than something they were doing outside of the job, or a preexisting condition.

One of the most important things that you can do to establish your carpal tunnel claim is to keep good documentation of the development of your injury, how and when it develops, and treatment that you have sought. Reporting to your doctor about how your injury is impacted by work, or arises at work, can help to establish your claim.

You may also need the assistance of a medical expert to opine on what type of activity aggravates your injury and how those types of activities correlate to the tasks that you are required to perform at work. Your doctor or expert may be able to go so far as to give an opinion that your injury is clearly work related.

Because carpal tunnel can slowly develop over time, it is important for workers to know that under New Jersey law they generally have two years to bring a workers’ compensation claim for an injury. This time frame begins to run from the date that you first noticed the injury or should have known of it.

This means that the obligation is on the worker to correctly identify the development of an occupational disease like carpal tunnel and to promptly seek compensation from workers’ compensation in order to recover for treatments that may be available. If you miss your deadline and do not have special circumstances, your workers’ compensation claim can be denied.

Treatments Available Under Workers’ Compensation

If your workers’ compensation claim is approved, there are many possible options for treatment that might be available to you. When your carpal tunnel is just developing many doctors recommend the use of splints or braces to support and hold your wrist straight and alleviate pressure on your nerves.

If this type of treatment does not resolve your pain, the next step may be to consider steroid injections into your arms and wrists in the hopes of reducing inflammation. You may require several injections before you receive a significant positive response. As a last resort, if all else fails, you may need to have surgery to cut your carpal ligament and alleviate pressure on your nerves.

New Jersey Workers Compensation Lawyers Helping You Make Your Carpal Tunnel Claim

If you are experiencing carpal tunnel symptoms as a result of your job, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation to help you obtain medical treatment for your injuries, take time off work, or recover lost wages. At Petro Cohen, P.C., our workers’ compensation attorneys have a great deal of experience in assisting workers with repetitive stress injuries.

Because these types of repetitive movements that are associated with the physical demands of your job can take a toll on your body, we commonly refer to them as “WEAR and TEAR” injuries.  While many times these injuries develop slowly over time, there are cases where injuries occur after a shorter timeframe, depending on the nature of the work.

In addition to carpal tunnel syndrome in your arms, hands, and fingers, parts of the body that are most at risk for potential WEAR and TEAR claims include

  • Neck – especially disc abnormalities, operated or unoperated
  • Low back – especially disc abnormalities, operated or unoperated
  • Shoulders – including rotator cuffs, impingement, and labral problems
  • Hips – osteoarthritic and degenerative conditions
  • Knees – including internal derangement, meniscal lesions, and osteoarthritis
  • Hands – including osteoarthritis and de Quervain’s and trigger fingers

Unfortunately, many workers do not know they qualify for compensation for these types of injuries. They may be told they are “just getting older,” or that workers’ compensation only covers injuries caused by accidents.  At Petro Cohen, we know better.

To find out if you may have a workers’ compensation claim based on your repetitive stress injury and learn what your options may be, contact us online or at (888) 675-7607 for a free and confidential consultation. We have offices throughout southern New Jersey, including Northfield, Cherry Hill, Hamilton, and Cape May Court House, and would be happy to speak with you about your potential WEAR and TEAR injury claim.