Whitt & Del Bueno, Attorneys at Law

Leaders in defending workers' compensation claims.

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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome - The Great Debate

By Mike Del Bueno

As you might know, carpal tunnel syndrome can be, under certain circumstances, a compensable condition under the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve (the nerve that passes through the wrist to the fingers) becomes compressed. When such compression occurs, pain, numbness and/or tingling can be felt in the wrist, hand, and/or fingers. If the compression is significant enough, surgery is often times recommended as a remedy for the symptoms.

For many years, there has been heated debate in the medical and legal communities as to whether typing on a computer keyboard can cause carpal tunnel syndrome. This notion comes from aspects such as the overall ergonomics and repetitive hand and finger motion involved. As many employment positions in this day and age involve computer use, many physicians relate the cause of a patient’s carpal tunnel syndrome to their job. This relation may lead to a workers’ compensation claim.

However, a study published in the Journal of American Medical Associations in 2003 disputes the notion that typing on a computer keyboard can cause carpal tunnel syndrome. Other studies have reached similar conclusions. So, if an employee who types for most of his or her workday develops carpal tunnel syndrome, and the typing is not the cause, what is?

Studies show:

  • Women are more prone to developing carpal tunnel syndrome than men.
  • Trauma to the hand or wrist can be a causative factor for carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Habits such as smoking cigarettes, which can constrict blood flow into the hands, and hobbies such as sewing or needlepoint, which can involve extensive bending of the hands and wrists, can be causative factors for carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Being overweight or having other medical conditions that make the wrists or hands swell can be causative factors for carpal tunnel syndrome.

These are just a few examples of what can cause carpal tunnel syndrome other than the famous, or infamous, notion of typing.

Whenever a claim is filed for carpal tunnel syndrome, be sure to look for non-work related causes, such as those listed above. If you are dealing with a carpal tunnel case that might be troubling from a causation standpoint, we are more than happy to lend a helping “hand.”