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Impairment focus: carpal tunnel syndrome

| Apr 13, 2011 | Social Security Disability Benefits

Social Security Disability (SSD) was created to provide financial security for Americans who were unable to work because of debilitating physical disorders. In the years that followed, the Social Security Administration gradually relaxed its standards and continually expanded its listing of impairments that qualify for SSD benefits in recognition of the fact that a disability does not need to be completely physically crippling to prevent one who suffers from it from working.

In light of this, we are beginning a new weekly feature on our blog. Titled “impairment focus”, it will do just that: focus on a lesser-known ailment that is included on the SSA’s list of impairments that qualify for SSD. It should be noted that merely suffering from one of these disabilities will not automatically qualify its sufferer for SSD. The SSA requires that the disability render an applicant unable to perform substantial gainful employment.

Today we are focusing on carpal tunnel syndrome, a disorder that is widely believed to be exclusive to 9-to-5-ers who spend their days in front of computers. However, carpal tunnel is actually more common among assembly line workers who hold jobs in manufacturing, sewing, cleaning, or meat packing.

Carpal tunnel occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the hand in narrow passageway called the carpal tunnel, becomes pressured or pinched. Early symptoms of the disorder include numbness, tingling, and weakness in the palm of the hand or fingers. The disease can then progress quickly, causing pain in the hand, wrist and arm, as well as decreased grip strength and the possible loss of use of the hand.

Approximately three of every 10,000 workers are forced to take time off work because of carpal tunnel syndrome, and half of those miss more than 10 days of work. Treatment for the disorder includes pain medication, physical therapy and yoga, and, most commonly, a surgical procedure to reduce pressure on the median nerve.

Source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, “Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Fact Sheet”

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