Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: A traumatic experience

Most people have heard of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS).  Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is caused by compression of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel. Symptoms of a compressed nerve include numbness, paresthesia, and pain in the radial palm and palmar aspect of the thumb, index, middle and sometimes ring finger. In other words, numbness, tingling and loss of strength.

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CTS is commonly thought of as a condition or occupational disease caused by repetitive  hand and wrist movements. In our workers compensation practice, we often see CTS in office workers who consistently use keyboards. We also see CTS in trade workers like carpenters, pipe fitters, and loggers, who climb, grasp tools, and use vibratory machinery and equipment. But, what about traumatic CTS?

According to Dr. Elliot L. Ames, carpal tunnel syndrome can also result from acute injury, like an automobile collision.  As indicated in a retrospective study, symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome developed in 96 patients within 2 months after an automobile collision. Forty-four (44) of these ninety-six (96) patients underwent carpal tunnel release with successful resolution of the symptoms. It is postulated that the mechanism of injury is blunt trauma from the steering wheel or dashboard. (see Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Motor Vehicle Accidents, Journal of American Osteopathic Association, Dr. Elliot L. Ames, 1996).

Dr. Ames is a clinical assistant professor of surgery, division of orthopedic surgery, School of Osteopathic Medicine, Stratford, NJ. The carpal tunnel joint on the wrist are in close proximity as the hand grasps the steering wheel, and as a result, are vulnerable during impact. The injury can occur when the hand is braced on the steering wheel at the time of a front or rear-end collision. Because the base of the thumb can be injured by the steering wheel and the carpal tunnel is in close proximity, it is reasonable to calculate the carpal tunnel takes blunt trauma during impact.

How is it diagnosed?

CTS can be diagnosed by your doctor by reviewing your medical history, work history, and activities during your leisure time to determine if your lifestyle may have led to the symptoms. Your doctor will likely also conduct a physical exam to compare strength and range of motion, as well as nerve conduction studies. Other tests such as x-rays and MRIs may be conducted to rule out other conditions.

What are the treatments?

The severity of your CTS must be determined by your doctor and your doctor will prescribe a treatment plan. Conservative treatments include home exercises and wrist splints. CTS sufferers may also be prescribed corticosteroids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Unfortunately, some CTS sufferers require surgery to release the nerve, and other may already have nerve damage.

If you or someone you know developed carpal tunnel syndrome at work or due to an automobile collision, contact the injury attorneys at Althauser Rayan Abbarno for a free injury consultation in Olympia or Centralia by calling (360) 736-1301 or visiting www.CentraliaLaw.com

The this article should not be used to diagnose or develop a medical treatment plan for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. If you believe you have CTS, contact your treatment provider.