Workers’ Comp and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

As a business owner, you want to keep your employees healthy and happy, and that means ensuring that they (and the business) are properly covered in the event of injury.

Keeping your workplace safe involves accounting for apparent risks, preventing slip-and-fall injuries, and ensuring all employees have appropriate safety gear for any tasks. Even once all that’s taken into account, there are still less-obvious dangers to watch out for.

For example, do many of your employees spend a lot of time in front of computers? This might seem like a pretty safe position, and it’s true that sitting and typing presents little risk of sudden traumatic injury. However, spending long days at a keyboard can come with its own physical strain—and an associated long-term health risk.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and the Modern Workplace

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a repetitive stress injury caused by pressure on the median nerve in the hand. The carpal tunnel, a narrow passageway between bones and ligaments under the palm, is vulnerable to compression caused by repetitive hand motions.

Early symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome will include tingling or numbness in the fingers and hand. Symptoms can include what feels like a mild electric shock when you move these fingers that then travel up the wrist and arm. The condition is also associated with weakness in the hands and a loss of dexterity. If you notice sudden clumsiness or “butterfingers,” it could be related to carpal tunnel syndrome.

If you notice signs of carpal tunnel syndrome, it’s important to see a doctor for treatment as soon as possible. If you’re prepared, it’s also possible to avoid the problem before it happens.

Many people develop carpal tunnel syndrome because they don’t take proper measures to minimize their hands and wrists’ stress while working. Sitting correctly, taking breaks to stretch out the hands and wrists, and watching for signs of stress aren’t guarantees of avoiding the syndrome, but they can increase the odds of keeping your hands healthier for longer.

Prevention Practices

For employers whose business is heavy on typing, having policies to prevent carpal tunnel in employees isn’t just good for the employees—it’s good for the business.

These policies will help to prevent turnover in employees and minimize the need for medical leave. Proper posture is a major component of reducing strain on all parts of the body, so investing in ergonomic chairs and desks for employees can pay for itself many times over in the long run.

Hosting an employee wellness program that provides education on the risks of carpal tunnel is another helpful approach. These seminars can equip employees with stretches and exercises to keep their hands and wrists limber.

It’s also wise for employers to build mandatory break periods into the workday in addition to the typical lunch period. A 10-minute break to rest the hands at several intervals in the day can help to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome and other stress injuries.

Treatment and Expenses

Carpal tunnel syndrome is best treated as soon after symptoms develop as possible to avoid long-term damage. Even before visiting a doctor, the best strategies are to take frequent breaks to rest the hands and apply ice packs after extensive use.

Wearing wrist braces as prescribed by a doctor can reduce mild to moderate symptoms and keep the wrists in a stable position. More severe cases, and those involving numbness, may require medication, injections, or surgery to repair the damage.

Workers’ comp insurance coverage typically includes repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome, but some states add additional requirements to prove the injury is work-related.

Suppose the employee requires accommodations at work, such as more breaks or time off to recuperate from surgery. In that case, this will be arranged through the employer, and any expenses may be covered by insurance.

However, every workers’ compensation insurance package is different, so an employer should carefully check that costs associated with repetitive stress injuries are covered to their satisfaction.

Reduce Strain Now and Reduce Pain Later

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a consistent risk for those in any profession that requires extended periods of typing. Minimize this potential issue with a plan to keep employees healthy and a robust workers’ compensation plan to fall back on. If caught early, this repetitive stress injury can be treated and allow employees to remain pain-free and productive.