Do you spend a significant portion of your days working on an assembly line or a production line in a facility such as a chicken processing plant? Then the piercing pain that you felt shooting up your arm from your wrist might be the start of carpal tunnel syndrome rather than a passing cramp. You might have experienced numbness or tingling for months without recognizing it to be the start of a condition that can jeopardize your work performance.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
This painful occupational injury results from the compression of a primary nerve in your wrist that is encased in the carpal tunnel area. The tendons that you use to move your fingers also run through the carpal tunnel area. When your job requires repetitive hand and finger movements over an extended period, these tendons may thicken. This may narrow the passageway and compress the nerve, causing weakness, tingling and pain that typically radiates up the arm.
How do the symptoms progress?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a gradual condition that progresses over time. The first signs typically include numbness accompanied by itching, burning or tingling in the fingers and palm. You may experience a feeling of swollen uselessness of your fingers, even with no physical swelling. While the symptoms may first appear during the night with you feeling the need to shake your hands to wake them up in the morning, it may soon extend into the day. Your effectiveness at work may suffer when it becomes a challenge to grip firmly or grasp small items.
Who is at risk?
The fact that women have smaller carpal tunnels than men might be the reason why they are more susceptible to carpal tunnel syndrome. You may find your dominant hand first affected. If your body's nerves are compromised by diabetes or another metabolic disorder, you might be at a higher risk. Although this occupational disease is not restricted to one industry, it is more prevalent among workers in assembly lines. Here is a list of industries known for causing carpal tunnel syndrome:
- Meat processing
- Poultry processing
- Fish packing
Carpal tunnel syndrome treatment can be non-surgical or surgical. The first option is to relieve the pressure by using oral medication that may include anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and aspirin or prescribed diuretics, corticosteroids or lidocaine that might bring temporary relief. Exercise, acupuncture and chiropractic treatment may also benefit injured employees.
The surgical option may bring permanent relief, but you may take months to recover fully. It involves the severing of the tissue band that is around the wrist to relieve the pressure and may require open release surgery or endoscopic surgery. Complications that sometimes follow include nerve damage, infection, pain, stiffness and scarring.
Assembly line workers and employees in processing plants in Illinois may not be aware that workers' compensation insurance covers carpal tunnel syndrome. Regardless of your status, you may be able to seek financial relief to cover medical expenses and lost income. If you feel you lack the necessary bargaining power to successfully navigate a benefits claim, you might find comfort in learning that the support and guidance of an experienced workers' compensation attorney is available to pursue the maximum amount of compensation for your suffering.