Your day includes a lot of screw drivers, wrenches, hammers, and other tools that require repetitive motion. One day you notice a sharp, burning pain in your hand or wrist. When it doesn’t go away, you see your doctor for a diagnosis. You’re told you have carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).
That tingling feeling
The carpal tunnel is the bony “tube” in your wrist through which nerves and tendons pass to your hand. Repetitive arm, wrist, or hand movements can cause the tendons to swell and press on the main nerve in your hand. The constant irritation then causes pain, numbness, and loss of function in the hand and wrist, but also sometimes extends to the forearm and elbow.
If you experience hand or wrist pain, fatigue, or tingling at work or after work, notify your supervisor and seek medical attention. The earlier you identify the problem and get treatment, the better your chances of preventing it from becoming a serious injury.
Why are you at risk?
Any occupation that requires repeated motion—the same arm or hand movements over and over—for prolonged periods makes a worker prone to developing a repetitive motion disease. This includes those tasks often found in the contractor industry.
Keep it from happening
Ergonomics isn’t just for desk workers. Contractors can also learn to modify how they use their hands to reduce the stress of repetitive motion.
- Try to keep your wrist straight. Avoid repeated twisting or bending motions for long periods.
- Reduce repetition. Even simple chores can eventually cause problems if the movement is repeated over and over.
- Slow down and use only enough force to control the tool you’re using.
- Watch your grip. Use your whole hand to grasp an object instead of just the thumb and index finger.
- Give your hands a break occasionally. When possible, alternate which hand you use. Switch between hard and easy jobs.
- Do hand and wrist exercises daily, such as wrist rotation and hand stretches.
A diagnosis of CTS doesn’t necessarily mean long-term disability. Caught early, CTS can be treated; however, the more severe cases may require surgery. Don’t let a repetitive motion disorder like CTS sideline you from performing your job. If you think you could be at risk for developing carpal tunnel, take steps to minimize the chance for permanent damage.
Safe@Work is brought to you by Federated Insurance®. This article is for general information and recommendations regarding risk prevention only and should not be considered legal or other expert advice. The recommendations presented may help reduce or eliminate the risk of loss, but are not guaranteed to do so. Seek qualified counsel with questions specific to your circumstances. ©2017 Federated Mutual Insurance Company.