Michael Burgis & Associates, P.C.

Carpal tunnel syndrome: When a "non-physical" job leads to injury

It's often easy to imagine injury risks from physical labor. You know that a roofer faces serious risks because he or she could fall 30 feet to the ground. You understand that loggers face risk from heavy machinery and heavy tree limbs. You know that fishermen face risks because they could be thrown overboard or caught in a storm.

But many people consider their jobs to be safe. These are non-physical occupations. They don't have to do any heavy lifting, use any serious machines or take any significant risks. They assume that they will not get injured on the job. This, unfortunately, is not true.

The disease of the century

All workers face injury risks. For those who do not do "physical labor" but who still have to type or use their hands in a repetitive motion all day long, one of the main threats is carpal tunnel syndrome. It has become so common in the modern workplace that many experts call it "a disease of the century."

Who is at risk?

Many different types of workers are at risk, and this disorder has a high occurrence rate in office jobs. People who spend all day typing on a computer may have especially high risks, such as secretaries, writers or accountants. Others with a high risk level include:

  • Cashiers
  • Typists
  • Telephone operators

The issue is that doing the exact same motion over and over puts stress on your body in ways it is not designed to handle. You may not notice it after one day on the job, but it builds up over time. This is an accumulated injury, not an acute injury. You do not have a single event at work you can point to -- like the roofer falling to the ground -- but you still have a work-related injury. You have just been slowly injuring yourself for years.

Interestingly, women seem more likely to wind up with CTS than men, and it happens most to those between 25 years old and 40 years old.

What does it feel like?

Generally, CTS starts with pain and even numbness. It can also lead to paresthesia. You will feel it the most in your wrists and the first four fingers. You can also have arm pain as the connective tissues move up your forearm. This can lead to both numbness and weakness of the median nerve. Some still have sensation in the palm, while others do not.

What now?

If you have CTS, it can become incredibly painful and may make it impossible for you to work. You may need serious medical treatment. Make sure you know all of the legal steps you can take.

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