CDC Releases Report on Carpal Tunnel Statistics

FJ Thomas

Sacramento, CA ( – The CDC released a report in early October, regarding carpal tunnel syndrome with data from 2007-2014 work comp claims.

The report highlighted relative risk, and also identified occupations with higher risk, based on claims filed for carpal tunnel syndrome.

Carpal tunnel is classified as a repetitive stress injury, and occurs when the median nerve is compressed or irritated as it passes under the transverse carpal ligament of the wrist. The symptoms include pain, numbness, and tingling, but can also cause weakness and an inability to maintain a grip.

Carpal tunnel syndrome may be diagnosed by electrophysiological tests that include nerve conduction studies or an EMG to determine pressure and median nerve function. Ultrasound, MRI and X-rays may also be utilized in making a diagnosis.

While surgical treatment is commonplace, physicians may utilize other treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome. Non-surgical treatment may include orthotic splints, anti-inflammatory medications, activity changes, physical therapy, and steroid injections. Of total carpal tunnel cases, 36% require long-term, ongoing “unlimited medical treatment.”

Surgical treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome is referred to as a “carpal tunnel release.” A carpal tunnel release may be completed openly where an incision is made in the palm of the hand, or may be completed endoscopically through two smaller incisions. In both techniques, the ligament is cut that forms the roof the tunnel that the median nerve passes through, decreasing the pressure on the median nerve.

According to AAOS, on average, “Grip and pinch strength usually return by about 2 to 3 months after surgery. If the condition of your median nerve was poor before surgery, however, grip and pinch strength may not improve for about 6 to 12 months.”

“You may have to wear a splint or wrist brace for several weeks. You will, however, be allowed to use your hand for light activities, taking care to avoid significant discomfort. Driving, self-care activities, and light lifting and gripping may be permitted soon after surgery.”

In statistics that Legal Match garnered from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, there are approximately 900,000 cases each year involving carpal tunnel syndrome. On average, carpal tunnel causes 31 days missed per incident while the average for repetitive injures is 23 days, and all other injures are at 9 days.

Legal Match information reported carpal tunnel releases have a 57% failure rate. The total carpal tunnel release surgeries are around 230,000 cases per year, second only to back surgeries for orthopedic cases.

Below are occupations that the BLS reported as associated with higher carpal tunnel claims in order of risk:

  • Cooks and other cafeteria workers
  • Installers and repairers of electrical power lines
  • Construction, maintenance, painters
  • Highway workers
  • Metal workers
  • Diesel engine mechanics and specialists (buses and trucks)
  • Housekeepers and maids
  • Industrial machine mechanics
  • Freight laborers and stockers
  • Auto mechanics and service technicians
  • Public bus drivers
  • General maintenance/repair workers
  • Installers/repairers of telecommunications equipment (cable, internet, etc.)
  • Janitors
  • Food prep workers
  • Truck and heavy tractor trailer drivers
  • HVAC specialists (Heating, ventilation and air-conditioning/refrigeration)
  • Correctional officers
  • Carpenters

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