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Diagram of wrist, fingers, nerves and tendons

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is quite a common condition that results in pain, tingling or even numbness in the fingers and the hand.

It is caused by a problem with the carpal tunnel – the gap between the bones and ligaments in your wrists through which the main nerve and tendons pass into the hand. It has not been completely proved, but experts believe that CTS is the result of pressure in this tunnel, which squeezes the nerve, injuring it.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Causes

So, what causes carpal tunnel syndrome? Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is caused by compression of the median nerve. The median nerve runs down your forearm, through the bones and connective tissue in your wrist (the carpal tunnel), and into your hand. It provides feeling to the palm side of the thumb and fingers. If the nerve is compressed as it passes through the narrow channel, possibly as a result of inflammation and swelling of ligaments etc, this will cause the tingling, numbness, and possible pain that has become known as CTS.

Who is most at risk?

Now that we have taken a look at carpal tunnel syndrome causes, it is important to take a closer look at who is at risk. The exact cause of the nerve compression can be hard to pinpoint in most cases as there are thought to be a number of different possible factors that could increase someone's chance of developing CTS, including the following:

  • Pregnancy – Many pregnant women suffer from CTS. It usually disappears within a few months of giving birth, although it may sometimes take longer.
  • Injury to the wrist – People who have suffered a wrist fracture may be more prone to CTS
  • Genetic factors – What causes carpal tunnel syndrome? Well, it can actually be genetic and the condition seems to run in families.
  • Certain other conditions: If you suffer from an arthritic condition, you may be more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome. You may also be more prone to the condition if you suffer from illnesses such as diabetes or an underactive thyroid.
  • Activities – Jobs and activities that involve a lot of wrist movement are thought to be factors in developing CTS. This is particularly the case when vibrating machinery and tools are involved.
  • Age – While carpal tunnel syndrome has been known to affect people of all ages, it is most commonly found in people aged 40-60. It is very rare for children to develop symptoms.
  • Gender – Women are more likely to get the condition than men. Roughly five per cent of women will experience symptoms in their lifetime compared to just three percent of men.

Jobs at risk of carpal tunnel syndrome

CTS seems to affect women more than men, and has a number of different work-related causes, all of which are made worse when performing repetitive tasks in cold conditions. Typical occupational causes include the following:

  • Repetitive forceful bending of the wrist
  • Computer use without a suitable support-rest
  • Regular use of vibrating tools
  • Regular heavy lifting
  • Persistent direct pressure applied to the base of the palm, over the region of the carpal tunnel

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treatment 

What is the best treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome? Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome is varied depending on the severity. Many mild cases of CTS will actually get better without treatment, but doctors will often deal with the condition by means of:

  • Treating the underlying cause – for example, if the CTS is caused by diabetes, treating that condition may help the CTS too.
  • A wrist splint – these are usually worn at night, and reduce pressure on the median nerve by preventing the wrist from bending.
  • A steroid injection – this is given directly into the wrist and is often very effective.
  • Surgery – this is only used in severe cases. The procedure involves cutting the ligament on top of the carpal tunnel in order to relieve the pressure on the nerve. There are two types of surgery: ‘carpal tunnel release’ and ‘median nerve release’.

In addition to the above-listed treatments, painkillers, yoga, acupuncture and other alternative therapies may be useful in helping certain patients return to better health and fuller functionality – these therapies may not have proven large-scale efficacy, but some individual sufferers report improvement in their symptoms.

However, if you think that you are suffering from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome you should make an appointment with your doctor without delay. A professional will be able to prescribe treatment for you, and to refer you to a specialist if necessary.

Employer Obligations

Employers have a duty of care to their workers. This includes taking steps to prevent them from developing industrial injuries such as CTS. Various legislative instruments are in place to clarify and enforce this duty of care. These include:

  • Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
  • Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
  • Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992
  • Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992

The final piece of legislation listed above offers particular guidance in relation to the development of the CTS in the office environment.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Compensation Claims 

If you have recently been diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and are considering the possibility of making a compensation claim for the condition, it is vital that you speak with an expert who can help you determine your legal rights and options. In most cases, there are strict statutory time limits in place for the making of a CTS compensation claim, so the sooner you begin the process, the better your chances of securing settlement.

Like Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can be caused by regular use of vibrating tools and, as with HAVS, employers have a duty to reduce the likelihood of their employees developing the condition.

If your CTS has been caused or made worse by the way in which you are required to work then you may be entitled to claim compensation.

Thompsons' solicitors are very experienced in dealing with industrial disease claims. We are an award-winning personal injury law firm and have an excellent success rate, winning over 90% of our personal injury cases. Start your compensation claim now. Call us for no win no fee help and advice. 

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