Are you or a loved one suffering from occupational carpal tunnel syndrome?
Our Macon, GA injury attorneys can help you get the benefits you deserve.
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Macon, GA 31201-8242
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More than 8 million people suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome each year. According to federal data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), carpal tunnel surgery is the second most common type of musculoskeletal surgery. Over 230,000 procedures are performed each year. What’s more, a majority of people who experience this chronic health condition are unable to return to the same type of work.
Only 23 percent of individuals who are diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome are able to return to their previous professions following surgery.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a serious chronic health condition that can plague you with pain and discomfort for years if left untreated.
Individuals who are affected may be unable to work at their current job or be forced to reduce their work hours in order to promote recovery and healing. As a result, a person’s financial well-being and security might be negatively impacted — on top of the physical pain that affects your quality of life.
At the law firm of Westmoreland, Patterson, Moseley & Hinson, our Macon injury attorneys can help secure the maximum workers’ compensation benefits available to you and your family. For the last 50 years, we’ve represented hundreds of injured workers near Macon and throughout the state of Georgia. We can help you take the right steps and negotiate on your behalf. We have the experience, knowledge and commitment to see your claim through to the end. We’ll secure the best possible outcome.
What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway of bones, ligaments and nerves at the base of your hand (in other words, your wrist). The median nerve, which allows you to sense feelings in most fingers (all except for your little fingers) and controls small muscles at the base of your thumb, passes through this small passageway.
Over time, this compression can lead to pain, weakness, tingling or numbing in your hand or wrist. Repetitive, forceful and prolonged use of your hands or wrists in an awkward (non-ergonomic) position can increase the risk of being diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome. Prolonged exposure to vibrations can also cause median nerve compression.
Signs and symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome
When it comes to CTS, early diagnosis and treatment are key to reduce permanent damage to your median nerve.
Doctors can run specific tests (such as an X-ray, electromyography, ultrasound, bloodwork, Tinel’s test, Phalen’s test and a physical examination) to find the root cause of your pain and determine whether median nerve compression is the culprit.
In many cases, the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome creep on gradually and worsen over time. Usually, the dominant hand is affected first and symptoms appear at night, which may cause you to wake up in pain.
- Loss of feeling (numbness) in your fingers
- Weakness in your grasp strength
- Tingling and pain in your hand and wrist
- Wanting to “shake out” your hands to relieve pain, stiffness or numbness
- Burning pain that travels up your arm
Common causes of CTS in the workplace
While a traumatic accident (such as a wrist fracture or sprain) can cause swelling that leads to carpal tunnel syndrome, in most cases CTS symptoms begin gradually. What makes matters more complicated is the fact that often no single cause can be identified. Instead, a handful of contributing factors may be to blame for median nerve compression. Some common examples of contributing factors in the workplace that cause CTS include:
- Prolonged use of vibrating tools
- Repetitive use of hands and wrists
- Cold environments
- Bad ergonomics (awkward hand positions)
In addition, certain biological and health factors increase a person’s risk of developing CTS. Women, particularly pregnant and menopausal women, are more likely than men to experience carpal tunnel syndrome. In addition, certain chronic illnesses and health conditions have been linked to higher rates of median nerve compression, such as diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, obesity, thyroid disorders, kidney failure and lymphedema.
Occupations and jobs with the highest rates of carpal tunnel injuries
In Georgia, some of the jobs and occupations with the highest CTS rates include:
- Phone operators
- Textile, fabric finishing and coating mill workers
- Apparel manufacturing workers and stitchers
- Animal slaughtering and meat processing workers
- Office and administrative workers (public administration, insurance, etc.)
- Grocery store clerks and cashiers
- Professional movers
- Construction workers
- Assembly line workers
- Agricultural workers
- Chefs and restaurant workers
- Forestry workers
- Quarry and rock drillers
- Electrical assembly workers
- Dental hygienists
- Landscapers and tree trimmers
Carpal tunnel treatment and recovery
In serious cases, surgery may be required to treat carpal tunnel syndrome. CTS surgery is one of the most common surgical procedures in the United States. Usually, surgery is minimally invasive and doesn’t require an overnight stay; however, it may take days, weeks or even months to fully recover and get back to normal. During this time, a person’s job duties may need to be modified, or they may need to change jobs altogether depending on the nature of their work and the severity of their condition.
The 2 main types of carpal tunnel surgery are:
- Open release surgery. During this outpatient procedure, the surgeon makes a small 2-inch incision in the wrist and severs the transverse carpal ligament in order to enlarge the carpal tunnel and relieve pressure on the median nerve. The ligaments will usually grow back together eventually and allow more space than before. Typically, local anesthesia is given to the patient and they can go home immediately following the operation.
- Endoscopic surgery. This procedure generally allows for faster recovery time and less discomfort compared to open release surgery, but it has its downsides. During an endoscopic surgery, the doctor makes 1 or 2 small ½-inch incisions in the wrist and palm. They then insert a small camera to observe the nerves, ligaments and tendons to diagnose the problem. If necessary, they can cut the carpal ligament with a small knife to relieve pressure. Full recovery usually takes weeks, sometimes months, and some patients may experience infections, stiffness, weakness and pain.
If doctors catch your carpal tunnel syndrome early enough, they may be able to provide recommendations on non-surgical treatment options you might consider, including:
- Splinting, usually worn at night to limit mobility
- Over-the-counter or prescription medication to relieve the pain
- Modified work conditions that allow your wrist to heal (i.e. taking more breaks, ergonomic desks, using ice packs, etc.)
- Acupuncture, chiropractic care and other alternative therapies to reduce pain
- Specific exercises (such as yoga) to build strength
Filing a workers’ compensation claim for CTS
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a legitimate work-related injury. Generally, it is categorized as an occupational disease, which is a chronic health condition that’s directly caused by duties, activities and tasks you are required to do for your job. If you believe that your work caused or worsened your condition, then you have a right to file a workers’ compensation claim under Georgia law.
If and when your claim is approved, you will be able to recover the following workers’ compensation benefits:
- Medical bills — Reimbursement for any surgery, therapies or medication prescribed by your doctor to help treat your work-related condition.
- Lost wages — Payment of up to two-thirds of your average weekly wage for as long as you were out of work due to your on-the-job injury, or to compensate you for reduced earning ability due to your light-duty restrictions.
- Travel expenses — Reimbursement for travel to and from doctors’ appointments for your job-related injury.
- Vocational rehabilitation — If you’re unable to work at your old job due to occupational CTS, workers’ compensation should provide you with job retraining benefits.
What to do if you think you have work-related carpal tunnel syndrome
If you start experiencing the signs and symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome and believe it may be connected to your job, the first thing you should do is immediately report the injury to your employer. Give them an approximate date when you first started noticing your symptoms. Your employer should be able to refer you a list of authorized physicians for medical evaluation.
Next, see one of these company-approved doctors and tell them about your symptoms. Answer their questions honestly and make sure they understand what type of work you do so that they can factor that into their evaluation of your injury. They may want to run tests before making a diagnosis. Obey all of their recommendations and attend any follow-up appointments.
Your employer or a representative from their workers’ compensation insurance company should provide you with a Notice of Claim form (WC-14) and instructions on how to file your claim. In addition to submitting your completed form to the State Board of Workers’ Compensation, you must send a copy of the form to your employer and their workers’ compensation insurance carrier.
If your workers’ compensation claim is denied or delayed for any reason whatsoever, you should consult with an experienced Georgia workers’ compensation attorney near you to discuss your legal options and get help filing an appeal with the State Board of Workers’ Compensation. At Westmoreland Law, we’ll make sure that all the necessary information is filled out and submitted, and we’ll negotiate with the insurance company to secure the maximum settlement possible in your case.
“Great staff. Very professional and knowledgeable. Staff went out of their way to accommodate us in every way possible. Made the whole process less painful. They made sure we understood everything that was going on and would answer any questions a hundred times over if needed.”
The resources needed to win
Unlike some work injury attorneys who settle all of their cases, we are not afraid to appeal a denied claim if needed. Our firm has the resources needed to thoroughly prepare, try and win complicated cases.
We are dedicated to doing everything legally and ethically possible to obtain the best results for our injured clients. Hard work and dedication have allowed us to recover millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements for our clients in workers’ compensation and personal injury claims.
Get help pursuing workers’ compensation for carpal tunnel injuries
If you or a loved one were diagnosed with an occupational illness or disease such as carpal tunnel syndrome, we invite you to contact our Macon attorneys immediately to learn what to do next and how to protect your rights before it’s too late. We can help you file a work injury claim and secure the maximum benefits owed to you. If your benefits were unfairly denied, we’ll fight to appeal the decision and help hold any negligent third party accountable for your pain and suffering.
If you have questions, give us a call or contact us online for your free consultation with a knowledgeable and experienced lawyer. From offices in Macon, Albany and Warner Robins, we help injured workers throughout Georgia. Don’t settle for less, get more.