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Why workers with carpal tunnel shouldn’t ignore their pain

On Behalf of | May 10, 2024 | Medical Treatment

Some work-related medical conditions are so severe that workers cannot possibly ignore them. A machinery malfunction in an industrial setting, for example, could cause broken bones or lacerations that require emergency trauma care. Many other work-related medical challenges slowly begin developing over time due to the job responsibilities someone has. Carpal tunnel syndrome has a strong association with office workers, but it can affect people in a host of different professions.

People who drive and must grip a steering wheel all day could develop carpal tunnel syndrome. Factory workers and construction professionals who handle tools for hours on end could develop carpal tunnel syndrome. Given that carpal tunnel is a progressive condition that may slowly worsen over time, people can initially ignore the signs of carpal tunnel syndrome. Doing so can be a major mistake.

Carpal tunnel syndrome can worsen if untreated

While carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms may start as relatively minor health challenges, they can worsen without rest and treatment. What starts as numbness or tingling can lead to pain and reduced strength. Workers may find that they become slower when performing job tasks.

The reduction in their speed and strength can affect the company’s perception of their work performance. An employee struggling to continue working the same job despite their carpal tunnel symptoms could be at risk of poor performance reviews, disciplinary action and employment termination. Additionally, as their symptoms worsen, they may spill over and begin affecting the worker’s daily life. Their pain may persist while they are at home, and they may struggle to manage their personal responsibilities, such as caring for their home and their families.

Carpal tunnel syndrome often requires rest and a change to how someone performs their job. Once a worker has a diagnosis, they can ask their employer for accommodations. Appropriate employment supports might include assistive technology, changed job responsibilities or the ability to take a rest from repetitive job functions as deemed necessary by a medical professional.

Employers should not punish workers for informing them of a job-related health condition or for seeking accommodations so that they can continue working despite their medical challenges. Securing a diagnosis and obtaining medical guidance can help someone prevent their carpal tunnel symptoms from worsening.

Workers’ compensation benefits can help cover treatment costs and can even replace lost wages when an employee requires a leave of absence to undergo treatment or physically recover from repetitive strain. Employees who understand that their symptoms may worsen and eventually endanger their jobs may be more assertive about addressing carpal tunnel syndrome accordingly.