Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is symptomatic when there is numbness in the hands and/or fingers. It occurs because the nerves that go from the neck, down the arm, and into the hand, have been irritated. It is the median nerve that passes through the wrist, here referred to as the carpal tunnel.When this nerve (the median nerve) gets irritated, then the person will experience numbness and/or tingling in the fingers that are enervated by the median nerve. This would generally be the thumb, index, and middle fingers.
We frequently see a Carpal Tunnel injury in auto accidents.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is often associated with poor office ergonomics, not auto accidents. However, CTS occurs generally when the hand and/or wrist is flexed or extended (bent one way or the other) to the point where there is some swelling of the carpal tunnel. Often the hand is hit against the dashboard, or some other area on the inside of the car in an accident. When swelling occurs it may touch the nerve, and when the median nerve gets irritated, the result is numbness and/or tingling. The feeling is similar to the feeling that one gets when they hit their “funny bone”. When the “funny bone” is hit, it is the nerve that runs across this elbow bone that is being hit. The nerve that is the “funny bone” nerve is the ulnar nerve. It is the largest nerve in the body that is unprotected by bone or muscle tissue. The ulnar nerve enervates the small and ring finger, and when it is hit, then the numbness and tingling is felt in those two fingers.
In the context of the personal injury case, it is important that this injury be recognized and claimed.
Too often it is overlooked by the attorney, or even the client. The attorney needs to inquire as to all areas in which the client has complaints, and recognize that complaints into the hand, can be caused by, or result from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. However, it is very important that if there is numbness in the hand, and/or arm that the cause could be from a nerve irritation in the neck. This is perhaps the more common injury in the vehicle accident, and of most significance.
The lesson to be learned is that the client must disclose to the attorney, and of course to the medical provider, all of the complaints, to all parts of the body, even though they may seem unrelated, or not cause by the accident.
Treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome generally begins with medication in the form of anti-inflammatory. The doctor is trying to reduce the inflammation that is causing the median nerve to be irritated (by the swollen carpal tunnel), resulting in the numbness and/or tingling. If the medication does not work, then a wrist splint may be used. This is to help reduce movement, and thereby perhaps reduce the inflammation. If this all fails, then surgery may be necessary.
CTS may also be caused from weight gain, and it is often seen in women who are pregnant. When there is weight gain, the carpal tunnel may swell, again irritating the median nerve. CTS is also more common in women. There are of course a number of other reasons why one develops CTS, including may air line hostesses (some claim this occurs from the pushing of the food/beverage cart), jack hammer operators, seamstresses, those who knit a lot, etc. It is those activities that can cause the carpal tunnel to get irritated, inflamed, and then swell.