A century ago, most Arizona workers earned a living in manufacturing, mining, farming or other labor-intensive professions. Back then jobs were more physically demanding and serious workplace injuries were more common.
Today, many more Arizonans are employed as administrators, managers, professionals and other white-collar workers. While rates of catastrophic injuries and death on the job may now be lower, previously unknown injuries - such as carpal tunnel syndrome - have become more common.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a medical condition caused by pressure on the median nerve that passes through the wrist. Although this pressure can come from pregnancy or illnesses such as diabetes, the most well known triggers are repetitive hand movements.
Typing for long periods of time at a keyboard is probably the most well known triggers. But not only office workers suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome. Assembly line workers, retail checkout clerks and workers who regularly handle vibrating tools also suffer from this condition.
Symptoms include numbness, tingling, weakness or pain in the thumb and middle three fingers, hand or forearm. Pain or other symptoms in the thumb or middle fingers - but not the pinkie - is often a telltale sign of carpal tunnel syndrome. If you think you suffer from this disorder, seek medical attention. Left untreated, it can lead to permanent nerve damage and require surgery.
If you believe the cause of your carpal tunnel syndrome is work related, notify your supervisor immediately. You may be eligible for workers' compensation benefits. Any employee injured on the job is entitled to compensation that covers the cost of medical care, rehabilitation, lost wages and other reasonable expenses arising out of the injury, regardless of whether the employer was at fault.
Because carpal tunnel syndrome often appears gradually and cannot be traced to a single incident, proving it's an on-the-job injury can be challenging. Reporting the injury to your supervisor and doctor is a good first step because it helps build a record that will help establish your claim.
Carpal tunnel syndrome, although not as dramatic as mine collapses or industrial accidents, is nevertheless a widespread and debilitating injury that employers and employees ignore at their peril.
Source: WebMD, "Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Health Center," accessed on March 22, 2015.