Is carpal tunnel syndrome caused by work? Well that is obviously a hotly debated topic among medical and legal experts. Different states have different workers compensation laws (work comp for short). Some states say that even if the person has a risk factor for carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) or a pre-existing condition, and it can be shown that his work activities “aggravated" these conditions, which resulted in CTS, then the courts in these states typically rule in the patients favor. Other states are more strict and say you have to prove that CTS was actually CAUSED directly by work-related exposure.
The other part of the question of “Is carpal tunnel caused by work?". . . is how do you prove an employee didn't have CTS before coming to work for that company? With all the disability and privacy laws about medical records it's difficult to get information unless the employee is honest and forthcoming; and sometimes the person may just not have realized they had signs and symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome in the first place. Unless the employee was diagnosed with CTS, and the employee discloses this to his new employer it may be difficult to prove otherwise, until this information is brought out in court.
When the court tries to determine “Is carpal tunnel caused by work?". . . they rely on information from doctors, surgeons, and EMG/NCS tests. Every carpal tunnel work comp case that I have been involved in, the patient has had at least one if not two EMG/NCS tests. They also must look at the employee's previous work history and or any hobbies that may have contributed to CTS.
Again, the problem or question of “Is carpal tunnel caused by work" is difficult to determine if the employee didn't have previous EMG/NCS tests to compare to the current tests.
Occasionally though, an employee will have had a previous evaluation or work-up for CTS and may have EMG/NCS tests. These are helpful, especially to your doctor, because it can help determine (along with history and exam) if the condition is getting worse or not.
It may help the court decide (also along with medical history) if the carpal tunnel symptoms you currently are having were caused by work or possibly caused by some other non-work related factor or medical condition that may need to be treated and before now the employee was unaware of his or her condition!
I hope this gives you some insight on whether carpal tunnel is caused by work or not. I always tell my patients to worry about yourself, your medical condition first!. . . . Get properly diagnosed and treated, then worry about whether your carpal tunnel is caused by work or not.
Joe Shaw PA-C
Board Certified and Licensed Healthcare Provider gives you the facts about carpal tunnel syndrome