Painful, weak hands can make doing a lot of daily tasks more difficult and unpleasant. People with carpal tunnel syndrome often experience difficulties working with their hands because of symptoms associated with the condition, which are caused by pressure on the median nerve in the hand. Many jobs require fully functioning hands, so it’s understandable why some people would need financial benefits to help them pay bills until they’re able to regain functioning in their hands. Anyone who is having difficulties doing their job or has had to quit because of their inability to keep up with workplace demands because of carpal tunnel syndrome should find out if they qualify for disability benefits through the SSA disability insurance and benefits program.
What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when pressure is placed on the median nerve. The carpal tunnel is an area on the palm of the hand that’s surrounded by ligaments and bones. The median nerve passes through this area, and since the passageway is so narrow and surrounded by bones and ligaments, the median nerve is prone to being pinched.
There are several factors that make some people more likely to experience carpal tunnel than others. For instance, people who do repetitive motions are more likely to experience carpal tunnel. But there are also factors that people have no control over, such as the specific anatomy of a person’s hand. Basically, anything that causes friction or pressure on the median nerve in the hand can cause carpal tunnel syndrome. For instance, a person who fractures their wrist could experience carpal tunnel syndrome, depending on how the break heals.
Another factor that plays into who experiences carpal tunnel syndrome is sex, with women more likely to experience the condition than men. This is most likely due to the fact that women often have smaller anatomy than most men, and the carpal tunnel area on many women is more likely to be smaller.
People who have conditions that damage nerves, such as diabetes, are more likely to experience carpal tunnel syndrome that’s caused by nerve damage. Obesity, body fluid changes, and certain kinds of medications can also make it more likely that a person will experience the syndrome.
Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Symptoms usually start out slowly and become worse over time. For instance, some people might first notice symptoms in the morning or just after working with their hands for extended periods of time.
One of the most common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome is tingling or numbness in the fingers and hand. Only the middle, ring, index, and thumb fingers will be affected, and there won’t be a difference in feeling in the pinky fingers. The feeling might be like an electric shock to the tip of the fingers.
Some people might experience sensations that travel up their arms. This is especially true if the person is holding a steering wheel or other object that they have to grip. Over time, the numbness might become constant even despite best efforts to try to regain feeling, such as shaking out the hand.
It’s also common for people to experience weakness in their hands and be more prone to dropping certain objects. The median nerve is not only responsible for controlling sensation; it’s also responsible for controlling muscle control, so if the nerve is pinched off enough, it’s likely that the nerve signals that the brain is sending to control the muscles aren’t reaching that area.
In less severe cases, some people will experience a general clumsiness even if they don’t have complete numbness or muscle control. The weakness might also spread beyond the hand to the wrist.
Treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
There are three main forms of treatment that a person can use to lessen their symptoms or get rid of them completely. The first one, which is completely non-invasive, is self-care. Things as simple as taking breaks more often and applying cold packs to reduce the swelling can help with the symptoms. These types of treatments are most often used on people who have only mild or moderate symptoms that last for less than 10 months.
Another form of treatment that some people might use is non-surgical but requires more treatment from a doctor. For instance, wrist splinting is one option that can alleviate symptoms. The splint is only worn at night, but it can alleviate pain and discomfort during the night and during the day for some people. This is an especially useful option for pregnant women because there’s no medication, which could be negative for the health of the woman and unborn child.
Some doctors will suggest to their patients to use NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, to relive the pain in the short term. Corticosteroids may also be injected to relieve inflammation, which should also lessen symptoms.
In some cases, surgery is necessary because other forms of treatment haven’t worked. The goal of these types of surgery is to relieve pressure on the median nerve by cutting the ligament that’s pressing on the nerve. Endoscopic surgery and open surgery are both used for this procedure.
Disability Benefits for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
People with symptoms that are very severe are sometimes eligible for benefits through the SSA for carpal tunnel syndrome. One of the first and most important things to check to determine whether or not someone is likely to be eligible is if they have been experiencing symptoms for at least 12 months or are likely to experience them for at least that long. Additionally, the symptoms must interfere with a person’s ability to work to a great extent.
More specifically, one of the first things that needs to be established is evidence of carpal tunnel syndrome. There are three ways that this diagnosis is established. The first is experiencing symptoms of the syndrome, including pain and weakness. The second part is to find more specific physical findings, such as a nerve conduction study, which will measure how an electrical impulse travels along the median nerve and how long it takes to travel. The third thing is an electromyography, which records electrical activity of the muscle.
In addition to showing that the person has carpal tunnel syndrome, they also need to show that they have an inability to work. One way that this can be established is to show decreased strength in the affected hand or hands.
If a person doesn’t meet the listing for carpal tunnel syndrome, they might still qualify for benefits by going through the residual functional capacity test. This process involves a doctor putting together a list of activities that the patient can no longer do. Then, the SSA will review the list of limitations and compare them with jobs that the applicant has done in the past to determine whether or not there are any jobs that the applicant is able to do.
How We Can Help
There are several ways in which the team at Osterhout Berger Disability Law can help you receive the benefit you deserve. We help individuals who need to…
- Apply for Social Security Benefits and want to ensure everything is done right the first time
- Appeal a denial of Social Security Disability Benefits
- Appeal an existing denial of Long Term Disability (LTD) Benefits
If you are facing one of these situations due to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, please do not hesitate in reaching out. Our team of experienced attorneys are here to help, and your consultation is free.