How to receive benefits for carpal tunnel and other occupational wrist injuries
Wrist pain is a common workplace injury in North Carolina and nationwide. These injuries, which are considered part of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs), typically result from damages of the muscles, nerves or tendons. These disorders often develop over a long period of time from overuse.
If you’re employed in North Carolina, these wrist injuries are generally covered under workers’ compensation laws—though there are certain exceptions.
Common wrist injuries that occur on the job
For most people, the arms and hands play an essential role in the work they do every day. Such hard usage day in and day out means that your wrists are more likely to be affected by WMSDs. Different professionals refer to WMSDs as different names.
Some of the names you may hear include:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Rotator cuff injuries (affects the shoulder)
- Epicondylitis (affects the elbow)
- Trigger finger
- Muscle strains and lower back injuries
- Repetitive motion/strain work-related injury
- Occupational cervicobrachial disorders
- Cumulative trauma disorders
- Overuse syndrome
- Regional musculoskeletal disorders
- Soft tissue disorders
Most occupational wrist injuries result from repetitive wrist movements as employees must frequently bend, straighten and move their wrists throughout the day. The repetition and forceful nature of your work often determines the nature and extent of the pressure on your wrist. If you don’t allow yourself enough time to recover, you may end up with a serious wrist injury.
What are the causes of wrist injuries?
When your muscles contract from repetitive motion and strain, they produce lactic acid. If the contraction occurs without rest, the lactic acid produced can interfere with the flow of blood. Without rest, the blood doesn’t have enough time to remove the waste products from the muscles. Over time, this leads to muscle irritation and pain.
Depending on the amount of time between activities, the pain can be severe. If your job requires you to perform repetitive tasks such as typing, lifting objects or any other action that involves moving the wrist all day, you may eventually suffer from wrist pain.
Tendons are fibers that connect your muscles to your bones. The tendons in your hand and wrist have sheaths. When strained for a long time, the fluid that lubricates the tendons and allows movement may not be enough. The lack of lubrication causes friction, which can cause inflammation and later swelling of the tendon. If you do not rest the wrist, fibrous tissue may form, which can restrict the movement of the tendons.
Damage may also occur in the nerves. Nerves are the pathways through which the hand sends signals to the brain. Wrist nerve damage can occur when the tissues around your nerves swell and become inflamed due to repetitive motion and strain. The swelling then compresses the nerves and interferes with the transfer of nerve impulses.
Signs and symptoms of a work-related wrist injury
Most people feel pain if they suffer a wrist injury, but you may also feel:
- Joint stiffness
- Muscle tightness
- Skin color changes
During the first days of the injury, you may feel tired and experience minor aches. As the condition progresses, the aching and tiredness continue, and you may not be able to do as much work as you have always done.
Workers’ compensation for wrist injuries in North Carolina
For most workers, repetitive stress injuries in the workplace are covered by workers’ compensation in North Carolina. If you suspect you have an injury, you need to inform your employer and have the condition evaluated.
You may have to undergo electronic and laboratory tests to determine the extent of the damages to the muscles or nerves. After the tests, treatment starts. WMSD treatment may involve the application of heat or cold, exercise, medication, restriction of movement or surgery.
Evaluating the injury starts with identifying risks in the workplace. This includes discussing your employment and describing the activities that you do on a typical day at work. During this assessment, the healthcare provider should consider the intensity, duration and frequency of the tasks you perform.
Average workers’ comp settlements for wrist injuries
The average settlement for wrist injury depends on the nature of the injury. In many moderate to severe wrist injury cases, injured workers can face medical bills, lost wages and other expenses totaling in the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you are eligible for workers’ compensation, your employer’s insurer should pay for all your medical expenses and two-thirds of your wages lost during the days you will be off work to recover.
If your workers’ compensation claim is denied or if you feel the compensation being offered isn’t enough for the nature and extent of the injury you have, you will need the help of an experienced attorney at Wilder Pantazis Law Group. We can help you appeal a claim denial and even get you a higher settlement than the original offer.
Some of the factors that commonly affect the settlement include:
- How much your job requires handling and grasping
- The dominance of the affected hand
- The average weekly wage before the injury
- The cause of your injury
- The nature of treatment the injury needs
- The nature of the impairment resulting from the injury
Repetitive strain injury prevention in the workplace
Wrist injuries often occur due to the repetitiveness of work. Other causes include applied force, fixed work positions and the speed at which the work is done.
You and your employer can prevent these injuries by:
- Mechanizing the job where possible
- Increasing the variety of tasks
- Creating an ergonomic workplace
- Using ergonomic tools and equipment
- Implementing job rotation (where workers do different tasks throughout the day at different periods)
- Training workers on performing repetitive tasks safely
- Encouraging breaks and rests