Carpal Tunnel and
Other Repetitive Stress Injuries
How to prevent repetitive stress injuries in your workplace
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is the #1 reported medical problem in the U.S., accounting for about 50% of all work-related injuries. Repetitive Stress injuries cost the United States more than $100 billion in lost time from work, job retraining, decreased productivity levels, therapy and/or surgery[i].
In 2007, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome was associated with the second longest average time away from work (28 days) among the major disabling diseases and illnesses in all private industries.[ii]
According to the U.S. Dept. of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), repetitive strain injuries are the nation’s most common and costly occupational health problem, affecting hundreds of thousands of U.S. workers and costing more than $20 billion a year in worker’s compensation.
Ergonomic equipment is no longer the only answer
No matter the report, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome has gone beyond the office worker. Ergonomic equipment placement can no longer be the only answer.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is the most common nerve compression disorder of the upper extremity and affects 7% of the general population. It accounts for 14% of clinic visits and 19% of hospital stays. Approximately 260,000 carpal tunnel release operations are performed each year, with 47% of the cases considered to be work related.[iii]
Carpal tunnel surgery has about a 57% failure rate following patients from 1-day to 6-years. At least one the following symptoms re-occurred during this time: pain, numbness or tingling sensations.[iv]
The most common treatment is surgery
Surgical treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is the most frequent surgery of the hand and wrist with 463,000 plus carpal tunnel releases performed annually in the United Sates, accounting for $1 billion in direct cost.[v] According to Stephanie Barnes, Director of the Association for Repetitive Motion Syndromes, only one percent of the 240,000 carpal tunnel operations performed in the U.S. each year are successful.
What causes carpal tunnel syndrome
Work that involves high force or vibration in cold temperatures are considered particularly hazardous for incurring Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. There are many other disorders of the hand and wrist and they include:
- Overuse Syndrome
- Chronic Upper Limb Pain Syndrome
- Cumulative Trauma Disorder (Repetitive Stress Injury or RSI)
- Hand-arm Vibration Syndrome (tingling and numbness that persist even after the vibration stops)
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is often associated with computer users, musicians (especially drummers) and people who do assembly work. The 2010 Bureau of Labor Statistics reported workers with the highest related events of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome are:
- Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers
- Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants
- Janitors and cleaners, except maids and housekeeping cleaners
- Food service managers
- First-line supervisors/managers of retail sales workers
- Truck drivers, heavy and tractor-trailer
- Police and sheriff’s patrol officers
- Truck drivers, light or delivery services
- Construction laborers
- Computer software engineers
- Inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers and weighers
- Stock clerks and order fillers
- Tire repairers and changers
- Packaging and filling machine operators and tenders
Interesting Fact: Did you know that if you type 40 words a minute, you press 12,000 keys per hour or 96,000 keys per 8-hour day? 8 ounces of force is necessary to depress one key, which equals almost 16 tons of force exerted by your fingers!
Interesting Case Study Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas started a program in 1991, when costs of CTS injuries to its employees surpassed $500,000. BCBS bought ergonomic chairs and desks, introduced ergonomic assessments for new employees during their first two weeks of work and hired two full-time registered nurses to work with employees. Since the program started, the company’s workers’ compensation costs have fallen by 62%, said Terri Janda, a nurse who leads the BCBS program.
[i] Bureau of Labor Statistics http://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2004/mar/wk5/art02.htm and http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/97-141/ergotxt5a.html
[ii] 2007 Bureau of Labor Statistics
[iii] National Center for Health Statistics
[iv] Nancollas, et al, 1995. J. Hand Surgery
[v] Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery:Volume 105(5)April 2000pp 1662-1665 The Incidence of Recurrence after Endoscopic Carpal Tunnel Release. Concannon, Matthew J. M.D.; Brownfield, Mona L. M.D.; Puckett, Charles L. M.D